By Chris Whiting, CFP®, Executive Vice President, Director of Sales and MarketingPrint This Post
Many people use or are considering hiring a tax professional to help prepare taxes. There can be many great reasons to partner with a tax specialist: perhaps you have a complicated tax situation, own your own business, had a major life event, or just would like an expert to help you navigate our complex tax code. Ultimately, a tax professional can help ensure you’re filing an accurate and timely return while minimizing taxes. If you’re using a tax preparer, it’s important that you work effectively with them during this process. Proactively asking a few questions – both of yourself and your tax preparer – can help you maximize the relationship and get the best advice possible.
1. What documents and information do I need to get together? You may already be familiar with the usual forms including W-2s, 1099s, etc., but there may have been changes in the tax requirements and your tax preparer can help you navigate these changes.
- Has your situation changed where you’ll need additional documentation – i.e. new job, new home, family changes, etc.? These and other circumstances can affect your tax situation and may require you to provide additional information.
- Did you have any other income sources during the year?
- Do you have expenses that may be deductible including car, home office, travel, etc.? If so, do you have good documentation including receipts, invoices, etc.?
2. What process will we use to share documents and other information with each other? Many tax professionals use online document vaults to securely upload and share information – if so, please refer to #5 below.
3. When do you expect to have an initial return complete for me to review? It’s important to make sure you feel comfortable with the data on your return as you are legally responsible for the information.
4. When do you expect to file my return? Some tax preparers don’t file until the last minute—no matter how soon you get them your documents.
- Do I have anything in my situation that would require me to file an extension of my return (i.e. investment in something that provides a K-1)? Is there a deadline by which you need my information to avoid an extension (assuming you don’t need one for other reasons)? By asking these questions, you can avoid a miscommunication and have a clear expectation of the process.
5. How are you protecting my information? Many of us have been victims of identity theft and are motivated to do all we can to prevent it from happening again.
- How is my personal information stored?
- How robust is your security software?
- Does it have multi-factor authentication?
6. Are you available outside of tax season? If I receive correspondence from the IRS, or need to amend a previous return, or I get audited – are you available to assist? If so, what additional costs may be associated with this effort?
7. What should I be thinking about for next year’s tax filing? Are there tax strategies or suggestions to help reduce my future taxes? Getting ideas early in the year will make it easier to consider and implement before year-end.
8. Will you work with other professionals such as my attorney or financial advisor to make certain all of my planning and goals are taken into consideration?
Tax season can be challenging but developing a good relationship with an experienced tax preparer can help make it as painless as possible and may provide great strategies for consideration.
Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. does not provide tax advice, therefore it is also important to consult with your tax professional for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.