tax preparer mn

YOU CHOSE WISELY - HOW TO CHOOSE A TAX PREPARER

choose-tax-preparer- wisely

Fun fact of the day: Did you know over half of US taxpayers hire a professional tax preparer when it comes time to file their taxes? It’s true (at least according to the IRS). Whether you use a tax preparer or not YOU are responsible for what’s on your tax return no matter who prepares it.

Tax Accountants are trust with our most personal information. Through your discussions and documentation they know about your marriage, your income, expenses, and social security numbers. That’s information your own family might now know. All of this sensitive information means that you need to choose your tax preparer wisely. To do that take a look these essentials

First let me say that most tax preparers do a great job. With that being said each and every year some taxpayers are hurt financially because they used an unscrupulous (or just uneducated) tax preparer.

Here are the tips to keep in mind when looking for a tax preparer:

  • Check to make sure your tax preparer has a PTIN. This is a Preparer Tax Identification Number. Only tax preparers who have a valid 2015 PTIN are authorized by the IRS to prepare and file federal tax returns. But this is only the first thing to look for because just because they have a PTIN does not mean they actually have the skills, education, and training to prepare taxes.
  • Representation Rights – Only CPA’s, attorneys and Enrolled Agents can represent you in front of the IRS. It’s one thing to prepare your return but can your preparer also represent you in the case of an audit or other tax issue. This lead directly into our next thing to look for…
  • Credentials – As I mentioned that main ones are enrolled agents, CPAs (Certified Public Accountants, and attorneys. There is also a new RTRP designation which means the tax preparer had to pass a text from the IRS to show a minimum level of competency. Along with this ask if your preparer keeps up on tax matters with continuing education credits and is part of a professional organization.
  • Fees – It’s ok to ask a preparer for an estimate of the cost. For new clients this will most likely be a range such as $200-$300. The range is because they won’t know your full tax situation until they get into the details of your tax return. Some tax preparers charge by the hour, some by the form, and others a flat fee. Try to avoid tax preparers that charge a % of your refund. This can lead to a conflict of interest. Since your tax preparer will get a bigger fee if you have a bigger refund they will be very aggressive in taking deductions, credits, etc.
  • This one should be obvious but make sure your refund gets deposited into your own account. Taxpayers should never deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.
  • Make sure your tax preparer is available after tax season and after you file your taxes. Tax Professionals might go on vacation after a long tax season but they shouldn’t close up for the rest of the year. Issues might come up that you’ll want your tax preparer to help with.
  • Records and Receipts – Ask what your preparer does with all the receipts and other tax information that they use to prepare your tax return. Good preparers keep digital copies of your information so that they can support the preparation of your return. This also provides you will a backup copy in case you lose or destroy your original tax documents.
  • Never Sign a Blank Return – Wait until your return is finalized and you have a chance to review it for accuracy before you sign. Ask if anything isn’t clear to you.
  • Make sure your tax preparer also signs the return and includes their PTIN. This is required by law and only unprofessional tax preparers will not sign a tax return that they prepare.
  • Make sure you get a copy of your tax return. Whether it’s a digital or printed copy you should keep a copy for your own records.

Follow these tips and you should have no problem finding a good tax preparer this tax season. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions of any potential preparer. After all it’s your responsibility to ensure your tax return is accurate. Or better yet ask us! PJF Tax preparers taxes for hundreds of tax clients and is still taking on additional clients for the 2015 tax season. Call or a quote today!

MISSING W2? NO PROBLEM. HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.

help with lost tax documents

You should have received your W-2 Tax Forms (the ones that show your earnings and tax withholdings) by the end of January. You will need one of these for each job that you worked at during the year (unless you were a contractor in which case you will receive a 1099). These will be necessary to file your taxes. If you haven't received all your W-2's by the end of January I would suggest giving it a little more time to account for mailing time or your employer may have just been late in filing. But if you haven't received these forms by the middle of February it's probably about time to start looking into it. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Contact your Employer - This should always be your first step and will probably be much easier then calling the IRS. Ask your employer's HR department for a copy or if it's a small business you might have to talk directly to the owner. While your at it you should check to make sure they have the correct address. This is the most common reason tax forms are never received.
  2. If, for whatever reason, you can't get a copy from your employer you can call the IRS. Their phone number is 800-829-1040. The IRS will then send a letter to your employer requesting the information. Make sure you have the following info before calling:
    1. Name, Address, Social Security Number, and Phone Number
    2. Employer's Name, Address, and Phone Number
    3. The Dates you worked for the employer
    4. An Estimate of the wages and federal income tax withheld during the year. Note: If you have pay stubs they should show the year-to-date amounts which will be very close to what would show up on your W2.

FILE YOUR TAX RETURN ON TIME

Your tax return is due on April 15th even if you have not received your W2. You can extend your return by filing Form 4868 which will give you until October 15th but remember this is only an extension to file not to pay any tax that you might owe. If you still don't have your W2 but are ready to file you can use a Substitute W2 Form 4852.  Estimate your wages and tax withholdings as best you can. The IRS will take more time to verify 

FILE AN AMENDMENT TO MAKE CORRECTIONS LATER

If you file your tax return with estimates and receive your W-2 later you are required to amend your tax return if the information is different. You can do this by filing form 1040X. This is not as hard as it sounds - you just show the differences from one return to the next and then calculate the tax effect of the changes. 

MISSING HEALTH INSURANCE FORM?

Since we are on the topic of missing tax forms, if you purchased health insurance off the exchanges you should be getting a form 1095-A. This is new this year which is why I'm reminding you. This form is also required to fill out an accurate tax return and could be beneficial if you are eligible for a tax credit.  If you didn't receive this form you should contact your marketplace.  For those of you in the great state of Minnesota you'll want to contact MNSure