We see many disastrous returns prepared by ill-trained preparers
When selecting a preparer, many people shop price and not experience. We don’t like to knock the competition—however, the old axiom, ‘you get what you pay for’ is often true. There are some companies that put their newly hired preparers through a six-week, evenings-only tax course, and then turn them loose to prepare returns with very little oversight. In other words, the person preparing your return might have been styling hair or selling appliances six weeks ago. Just because someone claims they are a CPA doesn’t necessarily mean they know taxes. Ask about their background, what kind of practice they have, and if they’re familiar with your state’s tax laws. (This is everything you need to know about filing your taxes after a big life change.)
Get organized before your appointment
Nothing is more frustrating than when clients show up with a box full of receipts and forms and say ‘prepare my tax return.’ Take the time to organize your tax items into something we can use—like a spreadsheet. At the very least, write everything down so we know what is included. This is the smartest way to spend your tax refund (according to science).
Keep a close record of all donations
Many taxpayers forget to track their non-cash donations. Those garbage bags of stuff you give to Goodwill can add up at tax time. Make sure you get a receipt and note exactly what you donated: “five pairs of women’s pants, three button-down men’s shirts, one child’s puzzle.” An excellent iPhone app, iDonatedIt (created by a CPA firm) can help you determine the value of your donated items. (These are smart strategies for stretching your social security income.)