The holidays are finally over and everyone is looking forward to what the New Year will bring. Is this the year your business takes off? Will this be the year you finally get to Paris? Will this be the year you finally get your taxes done right and file them before 11:59 pm on April 15th? That last question is probably the most important and it’s one that a distressingly large number of people can relate to.
If you polled 100 people most of them would likely list ‘tax preparation’ as being among their least favorite things to do. About the only ones who might disagree are those who anticipate receiving a sizable refund. But even they are no fans of slogging through the mountain of pay stubs, receipts and other paperwork associated with tax preparation. And to make things just a bit more interesting, the IRS announced that for the 3rd straight year they won’t accept any filings for 2019 until the end of January 2020.
Avoiding the Wrath of Uncle Sam
When filing taxes there are a few questions to ask yourself that are vitally important:
- Did you account for everything and account for it properly?
- Did you take advantage of the deductions that were available to you? All of them?
- Will you be able to file on time or will you need to ask for an extension?
On the face of it, those might seem like fairly innocuous questions. But making sure you answer them well and truly can make the difference between enjoying a nice fat refund and wrestling with the IRS for the rest of the year and maybe beyond. As such, it’s understandable why people procrastinate. Who wants to face the specter of paying a huge price for making a simple accounting mistake?
Making sure you avoid trouble with Uncle Sam will take work. But it doesn’t have to be an endless ordeal if you approach it methodically. Here are some tips that should help you get your taxes done right and on time:
- Don’t wait – This is the most important advice anyone can give. Procrastination has been the undoing of countless numbers of individuals. So there is no better time to get started than right now. Today. As soon as you finish reading this article. If you normally use tax preparation software, it’s time to open it up and start inputting data. If you normally use an accountant to prepare your taxes, it’s time to give them a call and get the ball rolling. Professional tax services are also available that will make your life much easier and ensure the preparation and filing process is free of delays and errors.
- Get and stay up to date on the rules – If you are preparing and filing your return yourself, it’s important that you stay up to date on changes to the tax code and any changes to the way the government processes returns and refunds. For instance, concerns over what appears to be a rising tide of fraudulent earned income tax credit (EITC) claims has led the IRS to put any and all EITC claims under the microscope. As a result, they are delaying the payout of any refunds that involve EITC claims until February 15th. So if you claim this tax credit and your refund is slow in getting to you, you’ll know why. But that’s not the only change in IRS policy. So do an internet search before you file to ensure you’re up to speed on any and all changes.
- Consider filing an electronic return – Being a governmental body the IRS is charged with keeping costs down. When people file electronically it saves the agency money. That’s because the electronic filing software automatically scans the return for mathematical and other errors. Filing an electronic return is also faster than sending your return via what’s left of the USPS.
- Make sure your ducks are in a row before filing – Sometimes taxpayers are so eager to get their return in the mail that they send it off before all the relevant forms have arrived. While any delay in sending out your return can be frustrating, it’s always better to wait. Since any oversight could trigger the dreaded A-word.
Earliest Filing Date
With all that said, there is no getting around the fact that the government, for no discernible reason, has delayed the first day it will accept filings this year until January 27. So, even if you’ve been a good, responsible citizen and finished preparing your taxes in early or mid-January the IRS won’t accept it until the 27th.
The nature of the Internal Revenue Service is not one that lends itself to full disclosure either. So if you are expecting them to lay out in detail exactly why they have truncated this years’ filing window to a period of about 10 weeks don’t hold your breath. It just is what it is and we all have to work with it. Still, it’s likely that some of the forms you need to file won’t arrive until the end of January anyway. So, while the smaller filing window is not ideal for early birds, most people will not be affected in any significant way.
The Immense Value of Professional Tax Services
The whole process of preparing and filing taxes is enough to make your head spin. Some folks are so intimidated by the process that they procrastinate, miss the filing deadline and then open up a whole Pandora’s box of other problems. If you have had enough of the annual tax prep ordeal, consider turning it over to a professional tax service.
Professional tax preparation services remove the guesswork, reduce the chances of an error, ensure your return will be filed on time and ensure you will enjoy the biggest refund legally possible, should you have one coming to you. There is no faster or better way to ensure the whole process runs smoothly and that you are able to concentrate on getting to Paris this summer.