How to Make Tax Time a Breeze
November 3, 2017
Another tax filing season is upon us! This period is usually stressful whether you engage a CPA or opt to do it yourself. Here are some tips to help take the pressure off during this process:
Don't be too busy or engrossed in your daily activities only to realize that you have not started your taxes when the deadline nears. Procrastination may cause you extra stress, errors in returns, missing deductions and can cost you dearly regarding fines and penalties. Therefore, it is wise to start the process early enough to avoid the last minute rush. Besides, many tax planning ideas need to be implemented before year-end to be effective.
Make use of IRS and state websites (Example for California residents)
State and local government, as well as IRS websites, offer vital tax information that you can leverage as you begin the process. For example, you can calculate your DMV fee at the California DMV website, and can also get your income, and wage transcripts from the IRS Many state income and tax histories are available from the state website. For example in California use FTB. Also, you can get your property tax payment information from the county assessor office such as Alameda County, San Francisco County, Santa Clara County San Mateo County, etc.
Use a checklist to track documents needed to file taxes
As you gather necessary details to file your return, you may miss out on important information. That is why having a checklist is essential. Such a list breaks down details into simple steps and also makes it easy to capture information that you might not have without the list, making the process manageable.
If you are filing returns on your own, you can make use of free online checklists such as the IRS Free tax documents checklist. Alternatively, you can approach CPA firms that send out the computer- generated organizers from your prior year's data. One challenge is that these organizers may be 20-100 pages long and hard to fathom. At Virtual CPA For You, we analyze each client's situation and compile a custom easy tax checklist for you. Each checklist can be condensed down to a handful of pages and be very easy to work with.
Make use of online information
Banks and online credit card accounts will give you tax information. This enables you to search tax-related information online such as interest income, mortgage tax documents, etc. Investment accounts also give you cost reports on annual statements, and stock sales among other reports. It's wise to go online to search and download all the information you think you may need.
Create a filing system
I prefer a digital filing system because it's easy to transfer, search, and archive information compared to paper filing. Evernote and Dropbox are popular applications in use currently.These two are free to use and have bank level security. At Virtual CPA For You, we provide a secure file vault for each client to store their tax return documents. Therefore, the minute a client identifies a file or receipt that relates to tax, she only needs to upload it to the vault, and we will receive it instantly.
Engage an experienced CPA
Income tax preparation can be a daunting task if you opt to do it alone, even with the help of tax software. According to IRS estimates, the average taxpayer will need 15 hours or more to file Form 1040 for 2017 returns! Also, the tax code is an ever-changing nightmare, and there are about 75000 pages long that you need to go through, which is practically impossible.
DIY only if your tax situation is very simple. A good CPA can save you time, money and relieve you the stress. In many cases, the extra money you save with a CPA’s help can vastly outweigh the money paid for the services.
When you were looking for a CPA, ask about their turnaround time. One of the most frustrating things about using a CPA is some of them have so many clients, and your tax returns will be put on extension and not filed until October 15th! Fast tax service is essential to a stress-free experience.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Virtual CPA for You is a 100% paperless online accounting and tax service based in California. We pride ourselves as one of the best online tax services. With technology, communicating can be faster and more secure than face-to-face meetings.
Circular 230:The articles are for general information only. In accordance with IRS Circular 230 they are not considered tax opinions for purposes of relying on such statements in any challenge of the reporting of the above transaction by the IRS. If a full tax opinion is required certain procedures must be met . Also there is a significant cost for a full tax opinion to meet the requirements of Circular 230.
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