As the New Year begins, one important financial matter comes up for all of us: income tax preparation. For some this is a simple, recurring, annual process, while others begin a frenzied scramble to organize and pass off documents to their accountant before the dreaded April 15 deadline. But a few simple steps can help you successfully prepare your documents on time and worry free.
First, identify the deadline for your specific return and schedule an appointment with your accountant in advance of it. Here are the tax return deadlines for 2019:
S-Corporation & Partnership Income Tax Returns – 3/15/2020
Individual Income Tax & C-Corporation Returns – 4/15/2020
Estates & Trusts Income Tax Returns – 4/15/2020
It is best to schedule an appointment with your accountant at least a week before you would like your returns completed, to allow for adequate preparation. Often you may not have all of the documents, and additional requests will have to be made by your accountant. This back and forth is why we recommend allocating additional preparation time. As always, the more organized you are, the better your accountant can serve you.
However, if you can’t organize and prepare your documents in accordance with the deadlines, don’t panic! The IRS allows for an automatic six-month extension to file your taxes from the dates listed above, if the extension request is filed on time. However, the extension does not provide you with extra time to make payments for any owed taxes; they must be paid on the deadlines listed above to avoid interest and penalties.
If you can request your accountant’s tax organizer in advance or locate a free organizer online, you will be able to arrange your documents in a way that makes for a quick and clean return preparation. This will allow you to maximize the value of everyone’s time during the meeting by discussing tax savings opportunities, rather than spending the meeting trying to locate and organize documents.
Business owners should be prepared to provide their accountant with access to books and records in advance of the meeting. The most knowledgeable accountants will already have your books and records from tax planning discussions that occurred towards the end of the previous year. They will have used that opportunity to review your potential tax liability in advance of year-end and advise you on what steps to take during the year, to maximize your refund and/or minimize any potential tax liability. If you didn’t have this conversation in the previous year, it would be advisable during the meeting with your accountant to discuss what tax planning services they are qualified to offer and how they intend advising you during the next year, to maximize your refund.
If you haven’t located a Certified Public Accountant, it is advisable to find one who is registered with the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) and/or the NYSSCPAs (New York State Society of CPAs). In recent times, a Facebook recommendation request to a local zip code group has also been a popular way to find a reputable local CPA.