Taxalicious /taks-a-li-shus/ Adjective. Definition: Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment from being ultra-prepared for the Federal tax filing deadline.
I would not be shocked if my CPA decided to send me a box of chocolates this week. Surprisingly, I made it to his top 10 for having copies of all my tax records in early, before the April 18 (not a typo) deadline. Being well-prepared and ahead of schedule this tax season feels great, so great, I have decided to give it a name: taxalicious!
With Monday, April 18, 2016 approaching, there is still time to get started, gather your receipts, W-2s, 1098s, 1099s, basically everything but the kitchen sink for your tax preparer. Who knows, you might even receive your own box of chocolates <I’m kidding of course> from these taxalicious tax tips:
1. Mark important tax deadlines on your calendar
This may seem obvious but I guarantee a small percentage of American taxpayers believe Tax Day is April 15, which it is NOT for 2016. Actually, the tax filing deadlines for filing both Federal Tax Returns (Form 1040) and a Federal Tax Extension (Form 4868) for Tax Year 2015 is Monday, April 18, 2016. This is due to an overlap of tax deadlines and Federal/State holidays. State tax deadlines also vary from state to state, and some states, like Texas and Florida, do not have a state income tax at all. Not sure about the tax deadline in your state? You can find a complete Federal and State table a Countdown Clock on efile.com. Another important tax date you’ll want to mark on your calendar is Monday, October 17, 2016 – the last day to file a 2015 Federal Income Tax Return for Tax Extension filers.
2. Choose a tax preparer wisely
While a majority of tax preparers are honest, the IRS sees many taxpayers suffer financially because they made a poor choice of tax preparer. For tax preparers you may be considering, the IRS recommends asking about their qualifications, training, certification, and professional licenses. Not every tax preparer is equal in the eyes of the IRS. Only an Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Attorney have unlimited representation rights and can represent you before the IRS in all matters – audits, collections, and appeals. The IRS also recommends you only work with tax preparers that offer IRS e-file, signs their name to your return, and enters a final PTIN – Preparer Tax Identification Number on your tax return. Stay away from any tax preparer promising you a big refund. This should be a major red flag. Finally, the IRS has an online directory to help you research tax preparers which includes those that have a professional credential, voluntarily take continuing education, and hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.
3. You are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return
The fact is even if you pay someone else to prepare your Federal Tax return, you are legally responsible for any errors or mistakes on that return. For example, failure to report all the income you have received during the year, not just wages, is illegal and may result in substantial penalties. Sources of additional income include things like freelance income, interest, dividends, sale of property, and even temporarily renting out your entire home or a room in your house for more than 14 days through rental services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO. Keep in mind the IRS receives a copy of every 1099 form, so they know exactly how much money taxpayers receive. It is equally important to check any 1099 report you get for accuracy and open each piece of mail carefully. Sometimes, there are discrepancies whereby a taxpayer may receive two different versions of the same form, example 1099-R (Distribution from Pension, Annuities, Retirement or Profit Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.) from a custodian and an employer. Your tax preparer should have all copies but in the event of an unintentional mistake, the IRS allows taxpayers to file amended returns for up to the three years after the original due date of the return.
4. Plan ahead if you need copies of previous tax returns
A computer printout of your return information is called a transcript, and is available by mail through the IRS.gov website. This transcript is not a photocopy of your actual return but rather shows the basic data including return type, marital status, adjusted gross income, taxable income, credits and payments. The IRS offers several transcript types, in English and Spanish, free of charge for the current tax year and three prior processing years directly on IRS.gov, using Form 4506-T – Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Transcripts arrive in 5 to 10 calendar days at the address they have on file for you so plan ahead, especially if you have changed your home address, which will add another four to six weeks to process your request. If you need a copy of your actual return, including attachments, you must file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.
5. Download the mobile app to make a payment or check a refund
(IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER USE A PUBLIC WIFI, FREE INTERNET, OR A PUBLIC COMPUTER TO MAKE A PAYMENT OR CHECK ON THE STATUS OF A REFUND WITH THE IRS2GO APP OR WHERE’S MY REFUND DESKTOP PRODUCT). Want a quick, easy, and secure way to check on the status of your refund or make a payment? You can now download the IRS2Go mobile app on your smartphone. The app itself is free to use for taxpayers wanting to check the status on a refund, 24 hours after e-file and 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. There is also a desktop version called “Where’s My Refund.” In either case, you’ll need to plug in a social security, filing status, and exact refund amount to retrieve your personalized refund date. If, on the other hand, you need to make a payment to the IRS, the IRS2Go App provides several payment methods to pay directly from your bank account or with your debit and credit card. Paying by credit card vs the direct pay method is the most expensive option, since it uses one of three approved payment processors; each charges a flat fee about $2.50 plus a credit card fee near 2%. Remember, to avoid penalties and interest, you must pay what you owe by your due date, even if you apply for an extension!
6. Have your guard up
The IRS does not have your number and is not calling you! Last week, the IRS released a new CONSUMER ALERT: SCAMMERS CHANGE TACTICS, ONCE AGAIN about nicey-nice scam artists posing as IRS agents, calling to verify tax return information over the phone, getting you to release personal information such as social security and bank account numbers. This particular scam is a big contrast from the aggressive, argumentative tactic demanding money most of us have heard. But that’s not all. Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400% increase in phishing schemes over email that use creative subject lines such as “The IRS has a refund waiting for you” or “Complete your tax return information.” Do NOT reply or open any attachments in these bogus emails or text messages. Instead, report it immediately to the IRS to email@example.com. Additionally, be sure to visit IRS.gov regularly and follow them on Twitter @IRSNews to stay on top of the latest news, consumer alerts, and releases from the IRS.
A FINAL NOTE:
Being taxalicious does not replace the need to seek personalized tax advice from your tax preparer, accountant, and financial advisor who know the most important details of your financial life including your marriage, children, income, investments and social security numbers. You should always seek out the expertise of a licensed tax professional for tax guidance.
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