Seven Steps for Tax Return Season
Posted on: 1/30/18 by
Thomas W. Donovan, CPA
Preparing to file 2017 returns
One sure sign that spring is coming: It is time to prepare to file your annual tax return. You can alleviate some of the usual stress if you have your 2017 return professionally prepared, but you still have some work to do. Here are seven practical suggestions to help you spring into action:
- Assemble tax documents. Undoubtedly, you starting to get inundated with numerous tax forms for the 2017 tax year, including W-2 forms and 1099s. By now, you should have all of your W-2s and 1099-Rs. Investors will receive 1099s with the details of their investment activities. K-1s may be forthcoming depending on your business affairs.
You may want to refer to your 2016 tax file to make sure you’ve received all of the needed tax documents before you start the preparation process.
Instead of just dumping these in a pile on your tax return preparer’s desk, review them first to ensure their accuracy.
- Verify Social Security numbers. It is critical to accurately report what is registered under your social security number. As you review your tax documents, make sure that the account numbers and social security numbers on those are correct. You don’t want to report something incorrectly, as it may cost you both money and create headaches down the road.
- Organize financial records and check your beneficiary designations. Now is a great time to review some other financial records. Did you open or close any accounts last year? Is there a good paper trail for any unusual transfers or deposits? If questioned by the IRS, could you explain that $145,000 deposit?
When’s the last time you confirmed the beneficiary designations on your 401(k) account, insurance policies, etc.? What about that IRA account you set up 20 years ago? Do those various designations still meet your long-term goals?
- Organize business records. The same advice applies to self-employed individuals and small-business owners who are often lax with their recordkeeping. Make sure that expenses can be substantiated through receipts and other documentation. The IRS pays close attention to travel and entertainment (T&E) expenses, including deductions for business use of vehicles. Proper recordkeeping for T&E is critical.
- Check your IRA options. A taxpayer can contribute up to $5,500 to any combination of traditional and Roth IRAs ($6,500 if age 50 or older) for the 2017 tax year. Deductions for traditional IRAs are phased out for active participants (and spouses of active participants) in employer-sponsored retirement plans. Roth IRA contributions are nondeductible but generally lead to future tax-free payouts. Note: The deadline for IRA contributions for the 2017 tax year is April 17, 2018, with no extensions allowed.
- Audit-proof charity deductions. Notably, cash and cash-equivalent gifts to charities must be supported by records, including written acknowledgements for donations of $250 or more. For credit card charges, the appropriate statement will suffice. Stricter substantiation requirements apply to certain gifts of property (e.g., an independent appraisal is required for most gifts valued at more than $5,000).
- Schedule a meeting. The last item on the checklist is arranging an early meeting with your tax return preparer. This can head off potential problems and resolve any discrepancies. Then you can relax, knowing your return is in good hands.
For more information on this topic, contact Tom Donovan or your Marvin and Company representative. We’re here to help you.