As much as it helps to do things on your own, certain objectives are better left in the hands of professionals. One of those tasks is preparing taxes, as you’ll want an expert to help you obtain the amount of money that you deserve and avoid missing out on anything that is owed to you.
However, there is still plenty of research that needs to be done on your end to make sure you have the right person helping you with taxes. You’ll need to know how these services work and what you can do to ensure that you get a fair deal. This guide aims to show you the ins and outs of tax preparation services so that you have a beneficial tax return.
You have several types of services to choose from when it comes to tax preparation. You can hire a certified public accountant (CPA), though you’ll have to make sure that they focus on individual tax returns. States have their own CPA societies in case a friend or relative doesn’t know any. If all you’re worrying about is taxes, then you can benefit from an enrollment agent. This option comes in handy when dealing with audits, appeals, collections, and other tax issues.
When it comes to avoiding application fees and similar charges, national tax-preparation chains are a reliable way to go. You’ll have plenty to choose from, with the most popular ones being H&R Block, Liberty Tax Service, and Jackson Hewitt. If you want to avoid paying anything, in general, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide service has volunteers to lend you a hand. This option works if you have a low to moderate income or are at least 50 years old.
You’ll need a variety of documents for your tax preparer if you want as much to come in your return as possible. If you have a job, you’ll have to bring in your W-2 form. Those who collect social security benefits will need an SSA-1099. There are different income choices for 1099 forms, such as the 1099-C for cancellation of debt, 1099-D for dividends, 1099-INT for interest, and 1099-MISC for non-employee compensation paid to independent contractors. Those in charge of partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates will need Schedule K-1s.
Proof of expenses are also helpful for finding deductions, and they can come in the form of gas mileage, tolls, travel, and other expenses related to an office job or your home office and equipment in case you work at home. Contributions you make to charities also count, as do state and local taxes. You can also use any proof of damage done to your home from earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other disasters. If your house was robbed, all you’ll need is proof that you owned the property, and you’ll be able to claim a loss from theft.
Signs of a reliable tax preparer
Whether or not you know you’re dealing with a reliable tax preparer depends on how easy they make it to work with them. First, they should make themselves easy to reach once the return has been filed and in case you have any last-minute questions that can affect how much you get back. In addition to providing tax envelopes for paper returns, your preparer should be able to file returns electronically. This gives you the ability to keep multiple copies, as well as ensure that your documents stay safe.
It’s important to ask your preparer to provide their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which is required for all preparers to have by the Internal Revenue Service. They are also obligated by law to sign your tax form and put their PTIN numbers on your return, so be sure to ask them to do that, as well. If you want extra proof of their credentials, you can ask for proof of being a CPA, enrolled agent, or licensed attorney. Legitimate tax preparers are not likely to ask you to sign a blank tax form, so avoid any that do. You should also review the information before signing the form to make sure that it’s accurate.
Keep this information in mind so that you get the most out of your tax returns and maintain a healthy relationship with your tax preparation service.