By Andrea Reid, Events and Community Relations Manager, Provident Bank
Due to the public health crisis, the tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020 for most states.
Andrea Reid, Events and Community Relations Manager, Provident Bank, spent more than five years working in financial and tax services in PA and NJ. She developed a system for processing over one thousand tax returns annually from January through April, and worked directly alongside CPAs and tax preparers to learn how to gain efficiencies in the client experience. She quickly learned what works and what doesn’t work for a successful tax filing and overall positive outcome at tax time.
Whether you’re a first-time filer, or a seasoned tax machine, the dynamic nature of tax laws means that anyone can and should benefit from an annual refresher at tax time! The yearly filing process may be dreaded for most, but small improvements in your organization and preparation can certainly offer a “return” on your 2019 return!
- When it comes to your tax preparation appointment, organization pays! Make sure you arrive with your documents and statements already opened and grouped by category. This can save a considerable amount of time during your appointment – and since accountants can charge $150-$450 per hour for their services, you could end up saving big by taking a little time to open those envelopes and unseal your W-2’s!
- Not sure where to start with this year’s filing? Look no further than your filing cabinet! Your prior year return is one of the best resources for assembling and preparing your current return. It will help to ensure you’ve included all of your pertinent forms for this year, plus highlight any major changes to your situation that may affect your tax filing. Use your prior-year’s return to create a checklist of all documentation you will need for your tax appointment: W-2’s, statements, receipts, etc. Or you can save time and find some helpful Tax Prep checklists online. Having to go back and add missing forms later can increase your tax prep fees, especially if your tax preparer charges by the hour!
- Speaking of filing cabinets, consider getting your head IN the “cloud” to start your tax year off on an organized note! Embracing a paperless approach to your tax documents earns high “E” marks: effective, efficient, and environmentally-conscious! Just remember, whether you prefer the metal or digital filing cabinet variety, security is KEY! Make sure you utilize a secure, reputable online storage provider such as DropBox, Google or SugarSync. Your financial institution, such as a bank or financial advisor, may even offer these types of digital services as well. Expense-tracking apps and websites, like Expensify and Mint.com, are growing in popularity with consumers of all ages looking to streamline their financial organization throughout the entire tax year and make it easy to transfer this information to your preparer at tax time! Just remember, while the IRS approves digital records, they must be able to be reproduced “in a legible, readable format” and that IRS retention requirements for paper records must also be applied to digital records. If you’re new to the digital world, consider asking your local library or a trusted college student to show you the ropes.
- Ch-ch-changes! Take a few minutes to brush up on important tax changes for Tax Year 2019, whether or not you think they’ll apply to your specific situation. The Motley Fool provides a concise summary of changes resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which went into effect starting for the 2018 tax year. Some notable takeaways are the doubled Child Tax Credit, the nearly-doubled Standard Deduction, and the disappearing acts of the personal exemption and other significant tax deductions - like those previously applied to moving expenses. Hey, you never know what might end up affecting you, and if nothing else, you have a fun icebreaker for networking events!
- Who says accountants aren’t social? Tons of CPA's and tax professionals, even in your local area, often utilize marketing tools like podcasts and blogs during tax season that offer a wealth of information (for free, but usually while promoting their tax prep services, of course!). Check out Your Financial Choices on WDIY 88.1 FM hosted by CPA and CFP® Laurie Siebert from Bethlehem, PA – you can even call in with questions! For business owners, the Simply Tax podcast with Damien Martin, CPA claims to “cut through the static of the tax world for business professionals who need a trusted advisor to help strengthen their tax mind.” For a fee, you can even engage an Ernst & Young tax preparer to prepare your tax return via online chat and file transfer with EY TaxChat.
Tax situations are unique to each individual and often complex. This article presents only some basic information you may find helpful; readers are strongly encouraged to consult their own professional tax, accounting and legal advisors on individual tax matters.