Tax season is a busy time of year, particularly for tax preparers and certified public accountants (CPAs). Because financial professionals usually receive an onslaught of incoming work at tax time, it’s never too early to start planning and forecasting your tax returns for the following year.
No matter where your knowledge of tax procedures falls on the scale, having the right questions for your accountant or tax preparer can set you up for the best experience. Plus, entering the process prepared may even result in a better financial result or tax return.
In this post, we’ll cover the top questions that individuals should prepare to ask tax preparers prior to the next busy tax season. Breakup this content up and use it in your newsletters, blog, and on social media as a resource for your clients and prospective clients.
Get Ready for Next Tax Season
Although you can’t necessarily submit taxes any earlier than the next federal and state tax window, you can learn how to prepare for tax season. “Tax Day” is typically on or around April 15 each year, and such is the case for the 2023 tax season.
Some basic prep work can give you a leg up before you start working alongside your tax preparer. Even now, you can begin to get clear on the following details.
- Tax filing status. Married persons and single individuals have different tax requirements and abilities. If you’ve been divorced, married, or are changing your status to head of household, this may impact how the following year goes from a tax perspective.
- Basic personal details. As always, refresh any personal data that’s changed over the course of the year. This includes your mailing address if you’ve moved or changed states of permanent residence.
- Documents, forms, and exemptions. Organization always makes tax season go more smoothly, and your accountant or tax preparer will be grateful to have necessary forms and paperwork organized. Be diligent throughout the year about keeping up with any documentation (especially when it comes to tax write-offs and exemptions), so that you aren’t scrambling before the following year’s deadline.
Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Tax Preparer
Choosing a certified and qualified tax preparer is the first step on your way to achieving a smooth and easy tax season. Not only should you take time to get to know the expert, but you should always approach them with questions that pertain to your specific situation. This includes whether you need to learn more about personal, household, or business tax situations.
Although tax preparers are hired to find the best filing opportunities possible, the conversation should always be mutual and ongoing. Check out our roundup of the top questions to ask your tax preparer in advance of the upcoming tax season.
Question 1: What information can I provide up front?
Every tax preparer is unique in their process to sorting, managing, and filing taxes. Some may request or provide a client tax questionnaire for new clients.
You can alleviate strain (and reduce disorganization) by understanding exactly what your tax preparer needs or expects from you. Most tax professionals have a basic list of documents, numbers, and accounts that they need access to.
This list can include items such as:
- Previous tax returns (summaries or complete return paperwork)
- Basic income (adjusted gross income) or payment statements
- Personal identification or tax ID numbers for you and your dependents
- Proof for any itemizations or deductions
By being able to secure and prepare such documentation ahead of time, you’ll end up saving you and your tax preparer valuable time and effort. If you only have paper copies of these items, consider transferring them to digital versions for quick and secure transfer the following tax year.
Question 2: What deductions or write-offs can I take?
A tax deduction is a qualifying amount of money that corresponds to certain activity, like charitable giving. These deductions reduce your overall taxable income, which therefore decreases your total tax liability. For individuals, claiming all the deductions often results in a higher income tax return after processing.
Tax deductions and write-offs are especially helpful for business owners who often re-invest money back into their business. From a business context, deductions can reduce the amount that businesses owe in federal or state taxes.
Some of the most common deductions relate to giving and operations. Be sure to ask your tax preparer about any sum of money related to:
- A home office, supplies, or utilities (internet and phone)
- Charitable donations or financial contributions
- Travel expenses
- Vehicle and mileage costs
- Some qualifying childcare or education costs
Question 3: Is my tax situation affected by recent tax law?
Additionally, it’s wise to understand how your tax situation may change from year to year. Very few individuals are experts when it comes to recent tax laws, and even if you’ve followed along in the news, you may not fully grasp how legislative changes affect your personal tax bill. A qualified tax preparer or CPA can walk you through recent updates.
One of the most recent examples of a tax law with far-reaching implications was the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. This particular ruling altered things like deductions, depreciation rules, and tax credits for businesses. For business owners, working with a qualified tax preparer to take advantage of certain benefits became especially important.
Some tax policies may also be amended in the short-term based on current events or special rulings. This was the case with the COVID-19 pandemic, which ushered in a change on things such as government stimulus money and tax submission deadlines. Since average taxpayers may not have as much in-depth information about tax rulings, it’s important to receive a professional opinion and advice.
Question 4: How much additional support is available?
In some situations, you may want to work with your chosen tax preparer beyond the official tax season. While some tax experts offer additional financial support, others work exclusively on tax-related problems or activities (such as long-term audits). If you’re curious about additional support or service, as your provider if you can connect regularly throughout the year. This may mean having access to email support, or it could look like an actual meeting to review your withholdings, write-offs, and other information.
To experience the best support possible, always keep your preparer up-to-date with any major milestones or changes that could significantly impact the following year’s taxes.
Question 5: What should I change to improve my tax outlook?
After your tax preparer has completed your tax documents, they should have a good idea of what your holistic tax standing is like. With this in mind, they may be able to recommend changes or suggestions that can improve your tax standing in following years.
For example, maybe you spent too much in one area of your business, and it didn’t benefit you in the long-run. Or, perhaps your personal withholding paperwork was incorrect, and you didn’t get what you needed for your dependents.
The right tax professional should always be available to help you understand and fine-tune your tax goals. Don’t forget—they’re there to help you maximize your results while meeting specific IRS requirements.
Choose the Best Tax Preparer for Your Needs
Tax preparers have numerous areas of focus and speciality, so choosing the one that best matches your tax goals is a smart move. To accomplish this, you should have some idea of what those specific tax goals are for the upcoming year.
If you’re a small business owner, find a tax preparer who specializes in helping business owners get the maximum return on their investments. This might also include leveraging any debt or potential write-offs to maximize return or minimize quarterly business tax payments.
If you’re an employed individual, what advice do you want to gain from your tax preparer? Do you need help navigating standard and itemized deductions, or do you simply want to file as quickly and easily as possible? Being honest and transparent with your expectations can help you find a match that delivers the results you’re looking for next season.
General Tax Season Reminders
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also publishes top reminders for individuals, businesses, and tax preparers before and during tax season. As you prepare your own documentation, don’t forget to prioritize what the IRS wants you to know about the upcoming year.
The IRS often provides updates to processes such as:
- Electronic filing
- Direct deposits
- Economic stimulus payments
- Child and family tax credits
- Contact updates
- Free resources and counseling options
Get Prepared for Tax Time
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Let CountingWorks automate and fine tune your marketing processes so that you can better deliver real results for your clients at tax time. You can get started today!