Your Income Taxes
Tax Preparation & Filing
Tax preparation is about asking the right questions while understanding the effect the answers will have on the tax calculation. It's not about filling in the blanks to passes a software “error check,” but a constructing a return that yields the lowest tax and largest refund.
Every year, consumer advocates use "test shoppers" to visit tax preparers who arrive at vastly different conclusions based on the same set of facts. Whether this is through error or intent, it is the tax payer who is responsible for any tax liability determined by the IRS, not the tax preparer. My goal is to file the return that reaches the best outcome for my clients within the rules set by the IRS.
I have been an Enrolled Agent since 2006, licensed by the IRS and admitted to practice before the US Tax Court. To continue to hold my license, I am required to meeting ethical standards of practice as well as education requirements every year that assure up-to-date knowledge of the rules affecting my clients and the strategies available to them.
If you have questions about a prior year’s return, please feel free to make an appointment with me to review that return on a complimentary basis. At the very least, my goal is to answer your questions in a way you will understand.
If your last year’s tax preparer has retired; or if you have decided that your current preparer no longer delivers the value you expect; or if you are ready for a relationship with a seasoned financial professional rather than a seasonal tax preparer, call my office for your appointment.
Our fees are based on a number of factors:
It takes more time to complete a complex return than a simple return. More forms mean more time and more time means a higher cost.
As an enrolled agent licensed by the IRS as well as a Certified Financial Planner, I take over 30 hours of continuing education each year to make certain that I give the best financial advice and prepare tax returns with the best possible outcomes.
My practice is open year round for any questions you may have. I do not refer you to some stranger after the "tax season" is over because I am "busy" during the day. I am also qualified to represent you before the IRS, unlike the seasonal preparers who may not legally represent you.
My fees are generally lower than most CPA's or national chains. I will quote a range of fees on the phone, however, many clients don't understand - or forget - forms which may be required.
I also believe you should not make your decision of a tax professional based on fees alone. In my experience, clients who come because of a cheap price will leave when they find a cheaper price. I am always happy to add a client to my practice who is seeking a long term professional relationship.
Prior Years and Amended Returns
I have prepared tax returns since 1997. If you have a prior year return you haven’t filed, or if you suspect a return you filed was not prepared correctly, you have a limited amount of time to take action.
Generally speaking, the IRS limits refunds to returns filed within three years. The rules for amended returns can also be more complex, depending on the original date of filing and payment.
People have their reasons for not filing. Some aren’t obligated to file or think it’s not worth the effort. Others are afraid because they owe student loans or child support. And some just never get around to it. The problem is that the IRS always gets in touch, usually when it is least convenient for you. Second, failure to file has its own penalty in addition to the interest. Next, if you do have a refund coming, you lose it after three years. Finally, there are many federal and state benefit programs, as well as scholarship programs that require a tax return as part of the application.
There are reasons for not amending returns as well. But mostly, taxpayers don’t know there is an error until someone points it out. And let's face it - the person who prepared your return last year is not likely to be looking back to find mistakes. So, taxpayers who don’t have their returns reviewed by a "new set of eyes" are most unlikely to find costly errors.
It is possible that the cost of preparing an amended return is more than the benefit you receive. I'll tell you that. But you’d be surprised by how many people receive sizeable refunds. If you have a question about last year’s return and aren’t comfortable asking last year’s preparer, bring in that return. I can advise you as to whether you are likely to receive a refund and what the cost will be to amend.
If you haven't filed a return at all, I will give you a free consultation, estimate the cost of your preparation and whether you are likely to receive a refund.
Call now to make an appointment to answer your tax questions!
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
Years ago, Congress was alarmed by reports that millionaires weren’t paying income taxes, so they ordered the IRS to invent a system to make sure that everyone paid a “fair” tax. Now, the IRS actually requires two different calculations. The first uses the deductions and tax brackets that most of us are familiar with. That’s called the “regular” tax. But if you succeed in reducing your tax too much because of too many deductions, they run a second calculation. That calculation doesn't allow most of the deductions in the regular system, uses a higher “standard deduction” and applies a flat tax to what’s left. The difference between the first and second calculation is called the Alternative Minimum Tax and is added to the “regular” tax. The taxpayer pays both.
Is there a way around this? There may be, however, tax preparation time is generally too late. So when we meet to prepare your income tax return for 2015, we will discuss your strategy for 2016. If you paid the AMT in 2014, it would be advisable to meet in the last quarter of 2015 while there is still time to implement changes in the current tax year.
Tax planning is primarily about of timing and coordination. I don’t believe there are “loopholes” in the tax code as much as the fact that time to time the tax code offers opportunities. Since some things are within our control while other things are beyond our control, a tax planner helps clients choose when to take income or incur expenses according to the uncontrollable factors and tax rate the client anticipates. Your tax professional has an obligation to bring these opportunities to your attention ahead of time. Think of it as being able to “look around corners.” Finally, while there are strategies available only to those with sizable assets there are many others available to individuals of more modest means. Matching the strategy to the client’s needs is always the key.
If your “tax planning” is limited to filling out your employers tax withholding form or filing required quarterly estimates, then you should be avoiding late payment penalties; however, you are probably missing some long term opportunities for tax savings. Call for a complimentary consultation to find out why a seasoned financial professional is better than a seasonal tax preparer.