With the recent announcement that the IRS won’t start processing Tax Year 2013 tax returns until January 31, you may think that you have extra time to start thinking about preparing your tax return. While the government closure has delayed the start of the tax season, it has not delayed or extended tax deadlines. Waiting for the last-minute to getting started on your tax return leads to panic and undue stress. And who needs that!!!
Getting Started On Your Tax Return – Avoid Tax Deadline Problems
I agree – getting started on your tax return is rarely fun unless you are eagerly anticipating a tax refund. But getting them done early can mean fewer headaches.
Tax returns for most taxpayers are due Tuesday, April 15 this year. It is very common to think, “Getting started on your return? I don’t need to get started on my return because I have three more months to work on it”. Well, here’s how to avoid that misconception and more reasons on why you should be getting started with your tax return early:
- If you’re planning to have your return done by a tax professional, such as an Enrolled Agent, getting started on your tax return now and avoiding the tax deadline rush and the need for tax extensions is a great way to reduce stress and late filing penalties and interest. Schedules fill up fast, and the closer you get to the tax deadline, the less time they’ll have time to get to know you, your tax situation and prepare your return before the deadline.
- If you don’t have a tax professional yet, don’t hire a preparer that prepares taxes as a side job. Start looking for someone that is an accredited tax professional that has made an investment in time and expertise to provide the most accurate and complete tax return – such as an Enrolled Agent or CPA. It is also important that the tax professional understands any tax issues that are unique to your situation. For example, if you live and work overseas, you want to hire a tax professional that is knowledgeable and experienced in the unique tax issues and rules for American taxpayers residing overseas instead of a friend of a friend that can help you with your taxes.
- If you are preparing your own tax return, getting started on your tax return with tax software makes preparation a lot easier then what it was only a few years ago. However, you still need to understand what you’re doing and if you need help and don’t understand the tax laws you are on your own to get answers and have no recourse for any mistakes or errors made on your return. While it is a no-brainer that if you have a complex return that you need a tax professional to prepare your taxes, oftentimes a tax professional can save your money and lower your tax liability even if your return is easy and provide the assurance and confidence that your return is prepared and filed correctly.
- No matter who’s doing your return, you need to have your invoices, receipts, checkbook and ledger in good shape before getting started on your tax return. Locate and organize your tax information, including current year tax documents, such as W-2s, 1099s, etc. and prior-year tax returns for reference. Your selected tax professional will most likely provide you with a list of tax documents and information that will be needed for the preparation of your return once you are ready to get started with the preparation of your return.
- By getting started on your tax return sooner, the better you can avoid scrambling to find or obtain missing paperwork. If there are errors with your tax documents, such as your W-2, you will need the extra time to get the corrected documents.
- You may be due a refund, but you won’t know for sure until your return is prepared. Getting your refund sooner is always better than getting it later. If you owe taxes, you can always file your return and wait till April 15 to pay the tax due.
- By getting started on your tax return early, you’ll know whether you are eligible for a tax-deductible IRA contribution and then still have time to make the contribution which will then further reduce your tax liability on your 2013 tax return.
- If you have your taxes prepared and file your tax return early and you find that there is a problem or surprise issue, you will have more time to fix it or find the information needed long before the filing deadline of April 15. Filing early gives you more time to solve problems or manage issues should they arise.
Getting Started On Your Tax Return Early
So, don’t put off preparing your tax return until the last minute. Even if the IRS doesn’t open filing season until January 31, it is in your best interest to get started early – as early as you can. Getting an early start might make the whole process a lot less taxing. Give it a try this year.
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Tax Samaritan is a team of Enrolled Agents with over 25 years of experience focusing on the taxation of US taxpayers and we can help you by getting started on your tax return early. We maintain this tax blog where all articles are written by Enrolled Agents. Our main objective is to educate Americans abroad on their tax responsibilities, so that they can look for planning alternatives on time. They are also designed to help taxpayers looking to self prepare, providing specific tips and pitfalls to avoid. If you found this article helpful, you’ll likely benefit from our future ones as well – so we encourage you to avoid pitfalls and join our mailing list:
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Randall Brody is an enrolled agent, licensed by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals. To attain the enrolled agent designation, candidates must demonstrate expertise in taxation, fulfill continuing education credits and adhere to a stringent code of ethics.
Every effort has been taken to provide the most accurate and honest analysis of the tax information provided in this blog. Please use your discretion before making any decisions based on the information provided. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for seeking professional tax advice based on your individual needs.