It’s that time again — TAX TIME. So far, we haven’t met a single taxpayer who enjoys sorting tax files and organizing records.
But your hard work and advance preparation will be time well spent! When you arrive for you tax appointment fully prepared, there will be more time to:
- Explore every possible legal deduction, evaluate your options for reporting income and deductions, and choose the methods that will be best for you.
- Discuss how recent and proposed tax law changes may affect you
- Investigate which tax planning opportunities are available to reduce your future tax liability.
- Can you contribute more to your retirement?
Since the tax law allows a variety of ways to handle your income and deductions, it is very important to have enough time to explore all of your alternatives. The choices made now will often affect not only your current year’s tax return, but your returns for future years as well.
For instance, the law allows a choice between reporting the gain from a property sale all at once or using an installment method. There are choices to make regarding the methods of depreciation to use and whether to use special expense elections for the purchase of business equipment. These are just a few examples of the various options that we need time to consider.
IT’S TO YOUR BENEFIT
We’ll have the opportunity to make sure you pay the lowest amount of tax legally possible when you come to your tax appointment fully prepared.
STEPS TO BEING PREPARED
Here are some general suggestions for getting your tax documents ready for us:
- Organize your records to sort income and expenses by category. Total amounts for each category.
- Compile all of your annual income statements, such as W-2’s, 1099’s and K-1’s. Be sure they are for the current tax year, and review them for accuracy. A copy of your year-end pay stub, should also be brought.
- Be sure you have social security numbers for all of your dependents age one and older. For any newborn children, order a social security number immediately. Write down all of your questions, so you do not forget to ask us.
- Review your prior year’s tax return. Compare the sources of income on that return to your income for the current year. For instance, seeing a dividend from IBM on your prior year’s return may remind you that you sold your IBM stock early in the current year — something you would otherwise have forgotten. Or you may note that you earned interest on a small bank account in the prior year that you forgot you even had.
- Compare your current year’s deductions to the deductions you claimed on you prior year’s return.
- Provide us with any tax documents and financial papers that you have questions about.
Here are a few suggestions that cover areas that are often overlooked or need special attention:
- Review your name, address, social security number and occupations on last year’s return to be sure that they were accurate. If there are changes for this year, be sure to note them. (Although they aren’t required for the tax return, your current phone number for home and work are helpful.
- If your marital status changes, if you lived apart from your spouse, or your spouse died during the year, list the dates and the details. Provide us copies of any pre-nuptial, legal separation, divorce or property settlement agreements, alimony paid or received.
Provide the following for each of your dependents: their first and last name, social security number (unless under age one at the end of the year), birthday, numbers of months lived with you and the amount and source of income – both taxable and non-taxable. For dependents over age 18, note if they were full-time students for at least five months during the year.
Sales of Stock and Other Property
- All sales of stock, bonds, securities, real estate and any other type of property must be reported on your return, even if there is no profit or loss. List each sale and bring the purchase documents which show the date and amount you paid for the property and the sale documents which show the date and amount you received in the sale.
- If the property was given to you, you need to determine when the original owner purchased the property and the amount of the purchase price. If the property was inherited, you need to know the date you inherited the property and the value of the property at that time; this information may be available on estate tax returns or probate documents.
- If you sold stock that was purchased through a dividend reinvestment plan, you’ll need to have the record of each stock purchase made with the reinvested dividends.
- If you have sold your house or vacation home, you’ll also need to know the total amount you spent on improvements. Provide us with settlement statement sheets for the purchase and sale.
- Each sale of stock, bonds, securities and real estate must be reported to you and the government on either a Form 1099-B or a Form 1099-S. Bring these documents to your tax appointment. Please note that these forms do not need to be attached to your 1040 unless there is withholding.
If you sold property in the current year or any prior year and the buyer’s payments to you are spread out over a period of years, you’ll need to provide the amounts you received in payments this year for interest and principal on the note.
Partnerships, Estates, Trusts
Provide us with K-1 forms and all explanations, pamphlets and instructions that were included with the K-1.
Deductions for Autos & other items used for Business
- List information for each auto separately. If you are an employee, provide records of reimbursements received from your employer; it’s essential to know whether the reimbursement was included in your W-2.
- Provide us with a record of any un-reimbursed expenses or allowances received.
- You need receipts for all cash contributions for them to be tax deductible.
- If you have donated clothing, furniture, books, etc., to non-profit organizations, you’ll need to have a detailed list which gives -for each item- the cost, fair market value, date acquired, date contributed and the name and address of the charitable organization.
Click here for new tax laws regarding charitable contributions.
If you think you have medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your income, click here for more information.
- Provide any statements you receive for student loan or tuition payments. Also, have available the following information: who was loan/tuition for, what year of study were the statements for, have you used the lifetime learning credit previously.
- Did you contribute to a 529 Savings Plan this year?
- The government requires the caregiver’s social security or federal identification number be reported for you to qualify for this credit.