Get Your Tax Act Together

So, you've chosen a tax consultant. Here are a few ways to prepare for your upcoming meeting:

Look over some popular tax guides or financial magazines. Generally, if the tax consultant sees you have some knowledge of tax laws, your cause is helped. But, read carefully. Says one consultant, "Sometimes a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. People may read in a newspaper that something can be deducted, but they don't find out, under what circumstances it can be deducted, so there's a rude awakening in my office."

Flip through your checkbook and credit card receipts in case you've forgotten any important deductible expenses.

Organize your financial records in a clear way, categorized by type of income and type of deduction, so the consultant doesn't have to do guesswork--and so you can justify your tax figuring if you are audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Look over copies of your past two or three tax returns. If you're visiting a consultant for the first time, bring at least the previous year's tax return.

If the federal or state government mailed you tax forms that include stickers bearing your name and address, bring them to the consultant. The stickers contain special number codes that speed IRS processing of your forms and cut down on errors.

If you have made estimated tax payments throughout the year, make sure you bring canceled checks or other records of payment.

Also be sure to bring your W-2 or W-2P Forms as well as any other forms that must be attached to your income tax return and sent to the IRS.

Ask the consultant what other records you should bring to his or her office. If you bring too much, you'll pay for sorting, rather than advice. Generally, consultants want to see records supporting certain deductions, such as medical expenses, interest paid on mortgages, and payment of state taxes and real estate taxes, as well as contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA). As the saying goes, “It pays to be prepared!  


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