Have a tax or accounting question?
Find Jan’s answers to some of the most common queries here.
1. When should I take my Social Security benefits?
This is an excellent question, and one I like to assist clients with for a simple reason: it can make an enormous financial difference to you to take your benefits at the right time. You may receive as much as $100,000 more in lifetime benefits by waiting to start your Social Security. Each situation is different, and without reviewing your personal finances, it’s impossible to say for sure what timing is best for you. Also, some circumstances may warrant taking Social Security sooner, even at reduced amounts. After analyzing your past contributions and your likely future payouts, I can advise you on the exact timing that will maximize your benefits—and your financial security for years to come.
2. What should I bring to my first appointment?
For Individual tax returns, please bring the following:
- Your prior year’s tax return. It is nice to have two prior year’s tax returns, if possible.
- A copy of your driver’s license (and your spouse’s license)
- Social Security cards for your dependents
- Copies of your W-2s and any 1099s received
- Mortgage and real estate tax statements
- A list of your charitable and medical expense deductions
For a detailed Individual tax organizer, please click here.
For Business tax returns, please bring the following:
- Your prior year’s business tax return, or two prior year’s tax returns
- A QuickBooks file for your business, or a listing of income and expenses
- Mortgage & real estate tax statements
- A depreciation schedule for your business or a rental property
- Payroll records, including W-2 employees and 1099 contractors
- A depreciation schedule for your business or rental properties
3. What should I do with my receipts?
When I prepare your taxes I work from listings provided by you, or your QB files and spreadsheets. So, I will not be looking at every receipt. However, you do need to keep them. If you were ever selected for an audit, IRS may ask you for a receipt to determine that the item you are deducting is truly a business expense. I usually put them in a file for the year, then at the end of the year I put them in a box labeled with the year and keep for 5 years.
4. How long should I keep my financial records?
Your tax returns have and “open” period with IRS for 3 years, unless fraud is detected, then they can audit any year. It is important to maintain financial records for a minimum of 3 years. For businesses I suggest a minimum of 5 years. For certain assets such as real estate and stock, all the records should be kept to help determine the basis upon sale. Now that scanning is so fast and easy, we are keeping more. It is important to take the time to properly label the documents, when scanning, so you can find them.
5. Do I really need to keep a mileage log?
Yes. There are 2 questions on the tax return that must be answered before your tax returns can be filed electronically. Do you have evidence to support your deduction? If “yes” do you have evidence in writing? If you don’t answer yes to both these questions, I think you would be asking for trouble. I know it is painful but if you want the deduction (For 2017 53.5 per mile, 54.5 cents per mile in 2018), it needs to be in writing. There are now phone apps that can be printed. I personally use my outlook calendar and write down where I went and the number of miles.
6. I received a letter from the IRS. What should I do?
It is an exciting moment to go to the mailbox and find a letter from IRS. I am pleased to say it is not always bad news. IRS has had some trying times and have sent letters in error. These letters are sometimes very difficult to understand and there are codes I use to figure out what needs to be done. Even though the IRS is not answering the phone, do not ignore these letters. If IRS thinks they have a problem with you, it is best to respond in a timely manner and get it resolved. It is best if you can scan and email the entire letter to me, then I can call you back and explain what needs to be done.
7. I hire independent contractors to work for me. Do I really need to provide them with 1099 forms?
Yes, a 1099 MISC form is to be sent to the contractor for payments over $600 paid during the calendar year to business that do not report to IRS as a corporation. How do you know how they report to IRS? You give them a W-9 to complete and return to you and there is a question on this W-9 form as to how they report to IRS. The 1099s are due to the contractors and IRS on January 31. Penalties for not filing these forms have doubled recently to over $1,000 per form and the loss of the business deduction. There are 2 questions on the tax forms Schedule C & E you will be signing. Did you make payments that would require you to file Form(s) 1099 and if yes, have you filed the required 1099 forms? If you answered “Yes” to the first question, you will want to answer “Yes” to the second question as well.
8. When do you need my tax information to complete my tax returns?
I recommend submitting your tax information as soon as possible. The minute you receive the necessary forms, make it happen. That way, you can focus on financial priorities for the year ahead and not have the previous year hanging over you. If you are not able to submit your information in time to meet the tax filing deadline of April 15th, you can contact me to file an extension for you.
9. What is your turnaround time for tax preparation?
Once I receive your tax info, I generally complete personal returns within one week. For business returns, the time varies depending upon the requirements for your business. I can provide an estimate after I review your records and determine what is involved.
10. Why should I entrust you with my taxes?
If you want an experienced accountant who will pay attention to your taxes and focus on the rules that apply to you, you’ve come to the right place. The IRS code is mind-bogglingly huge. I make it easy for you to navigate the financial waters at tax time. I will do my very best to do what I can within the law to calculate your amount due and nothing more.