Benefits Of Reviewing Prior Year Tax Returns

IRS4Did you have your tax preparer look at your returns for the last few years? It’s a good idea for taxpayers to review their returns every year. In many cases the review may reveal missed credits and deductions taxpayers may be entitled to that ultimately give them a bigger tax refund.

Review Last Three Tax Returns

This past tax season I reviewed the last three tax returns for one of my clients. In the end, she was grateful I did. Not only had she done her own tax returns without knowing all of the educational credits she was entitled to but she also received bad advice from a co-worker about the number of exemptions/allowances to claim on her paycheck.

She did take some of the educational credits she was entitled to but because she didn’t realize the true extent (and calculation) of the tax law and credit available, she didn’t take the full credit.

Positive Review Results

The review I did revealed that extra unclaimed credit and resulted in her owing the IRS $300 instead of $1900. A huge difference, especially considering she hadn’t started to pay those taxes because she didn’t have the money.

We also fixed the number of exemptions/allowances on her paycheck based on her circumstances.

Not Just “Plugging Numbers into a Computer”

After going through this review process my client realized that filing taxes was not simply “plugging numbers into a computer.” She realized that she was good at her job but when it came to tax law and taking advantage of all the credits and deductions she was entitled to, she needed an expert.

She also helped the effort by telling me everything that happened in her financial life over the past three years, no matter how small the event may have seemed. This was important because given the complexity of the American population; the IRS has built in a number of credits and deductions to help taxpayers from different walks of life. Preparers know more about these benefits than taxpayers.

In the end for many Americans preparing taxes may seem like an easy undertaking of just plugging numbers into a computer but if they are not careful, they may be missing out on credits and deductions they are entitled to. Working with a qualified tax preparer can help ensure the right credits and deductions are taken.

 

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Average Tax Prep Fee Inches Up to $273 (REPOST FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY)

REPOST FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (JANUARY 14, 2015)

The average fee for preparing a tax return, including an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return, will increase a few dollars to $273 this year, a 4.6 percent increase over the average fee of $261 last year, according to a survey by the National Society of Accountants.

The figure also represents an 11 percent increase from two years ago when the survey was conducted.

The average cost to prepare a Form 1040 and state return this season without itemized deductions is expected to be $159, also a 4.6 percent increase over the average fee last year, which was $152. It is an 11.2 percent increase from two years ago.

“When you consider that it takes the average taxpayer five hours to complete a tax return, this is a very strong value,” said NSA executive vice president John Ams in a statement. “The tax code continues to become more complex each year, including some new Affordable Care Act reporting requirements. Professional tax preparers may also be able to find tax deductions and credits that may taxpayers might not notice.”

The NSA collected the fee information during a survey of preparers. The tax and accounting firms surveyed are owners, principals, and partners of local “Main Street” tax and accounting practices who have an average of more than 27 years of experience.

NSA member tax preparers typically hold multiple credentials that demonstrate their expertise, including Enrolled Agent, CPA, Accredited Tax Preparer, Accredited Tax Advisor, and others.

The survey also reported the average fees for preparing additional Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax forms, including $174 for a Form 1040 Schedule C (business), $634 for a Form 1065 (partnership), $817 for a Form 1120 (corporation), $778 for a Form 1120S (S corporation), $457 for a Form 1041 (fiduciary), $688 for a Form 990 (tax exempt), $68 for a Form 940 (Federal unemployment), $115 for Schedule D (gains and losses), $126 for Schedule E (rental) and $158 for Schedule F (farm).

The NSA noted that the fees vary by region, firm size, population, and economic strength of an area.

The average tax preparation fee for an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return in each U.S. census district are:

•    New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) – $246
•    Middle Atlantic (NJ, NY, PA) – $314
•    South Atlantic (DE, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV) – $268
•    East South Central (AL, KY, MS, TN) – $262
•    West South Central (AR, LA, OK, TX) – $205
•    East North Central (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI) – $240
•    West North Central (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD) – $198
•    Mountain (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY) – $256
•    Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) – $348

Most accounting firms offer prospective clients a free consultation, the NSA pointed out, which can be worth well over $100 based on the hourly fees of most tax preparers.

All the fees cited assume a taxpayer has gathered and organized all the necessary information.

Taxpayers should also make sure they provide information on time to avoid additional fees, the NSA noted. Many tax preparers will charge an average fee of $114 for dealing with disorganized or incomplete files.

Some will charge an average fee of $42 to file an extension, an average fee of $88 to expedite a return, and an average fee of $93 if information is not provided in advance of an agreed-upon deadline. For taxpayers who are audited by the IRS, the average hourly fee to handle the audit is $144.

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Tax Returns, Obamacare & You

obamacare-logo_fullThis is the first year that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will impact tax returns for Americans. Starting in mid January, the IRS and many taxpayers will start to receive information about their health coverage for 2014. They’ll need that information to correctly file their tax return for 2014.

Here are some of the forms they should expect to receive:

1095 – A – This form will be received by anyone that purchased insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This form will show details about the insurance coverage including the effective date, amount of premium and the advance premium tax credit.

1095 – B – This form may be provided by private insurers and self funded plans to their policyholders. It summarizes the coverage the policyholder had with them for the year.

1095 – CEmployers may provide this form which provides information about a taxpayer’s health insurance plan and who was covered.

It is worth noting that because this is a transition period that forms 1095-B and 1095-C are not required for 2014 tax year.

 

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SECURE THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS

iStock_000008233795Medium-man4-908x1024When it comes to your business, hoping for the best won’t ensure its future. Take Jack Stanton for example. Jack spent thirty years building a manufacturing giant, Stanton Solutions Corporation. However, due to the rigors of maintaining his company, he had little time for any personal financial and estate planning. Then, Jack died unexpectedly in a boating accident. All of a sudden, Stanton Solutions, a multi-million dollar manufacturing empire was facing an uncertain future caused by the loss of its owner and upper-most key executive.

What would happen to your business and your family should you become disabled or die unexpectedly? Do you have key employees for family members who could step in and run the company in your absence?

Business Continuation Basics

It is essential to the future of your business and your family to have a succession strategy in place. In order for your business to maintain continuity, you need to implement a succession strategy that coincides with your goals and objectives. Your strategy should be flexible enough to handle changes within the company and its related industry(ies). However, one of the keys to a succession strategy is determining who or whom your successor(s) will be.

Deciding on, and preparing a successor may require years to familiarize him or her with the finer points of the business. Thus, it is important to select a replacement as soon as possible in order to maximize the possibility of a successful transition. In smaller businesses, it is not uncommon for one or more family members to be at the top of the list of potential successors.

If you wish to pass your business on to future generations, you will need to make an honest assessment of the respective needs of your family and business, the qualifications of any interested family members, and whether the family and business would be best served by a continued relationship. Communication with family members is extremely important in order to better ascertain overall interest or concern.

You can prepare yourself by honestly evaluating and reflecting on the necessary components of a well-thought-out succession strategy. Here are some points that may require further elaboration:

• a thorough job description of each position, including details regarding areas of responsibility and delegation of duties;
• a management/organizational plan;
• Assuring the availability of cash to meet the demands of federal and/or state estate taxes;
• a list of potential successors to your ownership, taking every candidate’s job experience and academic background into consideration; and
• a mechanism to ensure extensive on-the-job training for the successor(s).

Other Considerations

A succession strategy may also include a buy-sell agreement funded by life insurance. More than likely, your successor may not have the cash, or the ability, to borrow at the time of successorship. Under such an agreement, the death benefit proceeds of the life insurance can be used to provide the cash necessary for a successor to purchase an owner’s share of stock in the event of his or her untimely death.

In addition, it may be prudent to explore how your unexpected disability could affect not only your plans for successorship, but also your financial well-being. Under a disability buyout arrangement, a disability buyout policy provides a successor with cash to purchase shares in the event of the owner’s untimely disability.

 

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