By Chris Whiting, CFP®, Executive Vice President, Director of Sales and MarketingPrint This Post
For many people, preparing and filing their tax return can be a complex and frustrating process – and unfortunately, things do not seem to be getting any easier. The 2020 tax year includes changes that could have an impact on your tax situation. Many people’s finances have been impacted due to the pandemic from a loss or reduction of income, receipt of unemployment benefits, etc.
These changes, on top of an already complex tax code and process, may have you thinking about utilizing the services of a tax professional. Regardless of – or perhaps due to – these recent changes, there can be many great reasons to partner with a tax specialist. Perhaps you have a complicated tax situation due to owning your own business, or you had a major life event such as an addition to the family or a divorce. Maybe you’d just like an expert to help you navigate the tax process. Ultimately, you want to be confident you’re filing a timely and accurate return, minimizing taxes, and planning appropriately towards future financial goals.
Whether you’re currently using a tax preparer or simply considering that option, it’s important that you work effectively together during this process. Proactively asking a few questions can ensure you are maximizing the relationship and getting the best advice possible.
1. What records and documents do I need to gather? You may already be familiar with the usual forms (W-2, 1099, etc.), but there may have been changes in your situation where you’ll need additional documentation. It’s also important to keep your tax preparer updated with any changes in your personal circumstances such as an impact to your income due to the pandemic, and/or other life events including a new home, a baby, marriage, or divorce.
2. How do you establish the fees for your services? Many tax professionals charge based on the complexity of your return – and this can be based on a number of factors including schedules or additional forms needed to complete your return. Having a clear understanding of your fees up front is a great practice when starting this relationship.
3. What process will we use to share documents and other information with each other? Many tax professionals use an online document vault to securely upload and share information – if that’s the case, please refer to #6 below.
4. When do you expect to have an initial draft of my taxes for me to review? It’s important you understand your return as you’re legally responsible for this information. Determine how they will communicate with you (i.e. e-mail, phone, or through the online portal) so you don’t miss anything important and can respond to questions in a timely way.
5. When will you file my return? Some tax preparers don’t file until closer to the deadline regardless of how soon you get them your documents. Other tax professionals may suggest extending your return filing date – in some cases your situation may require you to extend. By asking this question, you can avoid any misunderstanding and be on the same page.
6. Is my information safe and how are you protecting it? Many of us have been victims of identity theft and are motivated to do all we can to prevent it from happening again. Ask questions about how your personal information is stored, how robust their security software is, and whether they utilize multi-factor authentication, for example.
7. How will you support me if the IRS has questions or I get audited? While none of us want to think about these situations, it’s important to understand how your tax preparer will support you in the event you need it.
Tax season can be challenging but developing a good relationship with an experienced tax preparer can help make it as painless as possible.
Benjamin F. Edwards does not provide tax advice; therefore it is also important to consult with your tax professional for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.
1 Please note the SECURE Act includes other provisions that could potentially impact your taxes.