FAQ

What do I do if I receive a notice from the IRS about my taxes?
Don’t panic! the first thing to do is carefully read the notice—to determine why it was sent, what the IRS is requesting, and what they want you to do. It may be nothing of importance; it may even be a notice in your favor. After reading it you should bring it to our attention.

How do I find out about my refund?
The best way is to use the Check Your Refund link from the Resources pages of our website! To look up the status of your federal or state refund, you will need your social security number, filing status, and exact amount you’re expecting back.

What do I need to bring when I am having my taxes prepared?

 Following is a list of the more common items you should bring if you have them.
- Wage statements (Form W-2)
- Pension, or retirement income (Forms 1099-R)
- Dependents' Social Security numbers and dates of birth
- Last year's tax return
- Information on education expenses
- Information on the sales of stocks and/or bonds
- Self-employed business income and expenses
- Lottery and/or gambling winnings and losses
- State refund amount
- Social Security and/or unemployment income
- Income and expenses from rentals
- Record of purchase or sale of real estate
- Medical and dental expenses
- Real estate and personal property taxes
- Estimated taxes or foreign taxes paid
- Cash and non-cash charitable donations
- Mortgage or home equity loan interest paid (Form 1098)
- Unreimbursed employment-related expenses
- Job-related educational expenses
- Child care expenses and provider information And any other items that you think may be necessary for your taxes.

How long do I keep my records and tax returns?

 You should keep your records and tax returns for at least 3 years from the date the return was filed or the date the return was required to be filed, whichever is later. It is recommended that you keep these records longer if possible.

What college expenses may I deduct?
There are several ways you can claim deductions for college expenses on your tax return. They are the tuition deduction, the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. If we are preparing your return we will determine which ones you qualify for and which one gives you the greatest tax benefit.

What do I need to keep for my charitable contributions?

First, is your contribution cash or non-cash

For contributions worth $250 or more, you must have a written receipt or letter from the organization

If you make a cash donation less than $250, you must have a bank record or written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the amount of the donation. A bank record can be the cancelled check or a statement from a bank or credit union—so long as it lists the charity’s name, the date, and the amount of the contribution. Personal records such as bank registers, diaries and notes are no longer considered acceptable proof of contributions.

Any used items (such as clothing, linens, appliances, etc.) must be in good condition and may only be deducted at the price you could reasonably ask for the item in used condition. For contributions worth $250 or more, you must have a written receipt or letter from the organization. For contributions worth $500 or more, you must file Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) and attach it to your Form 1040.

All contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations.

I received tax statements from my employer or bank after I filed my tax return. What should I do?
If we filed your return, bring the new tax documents to our office. We will determine if it is necessary for you to file an amended return.

What is an amended return, and when should I file one?
An amended return is simply a return filed with the IRS and/or state because of an error or an omission on your original return. You should file an amended return if there is a material difference between the original return and your new changes. As of now, an amended return cannot be electronically filed, and any expected refunds will take longer to receive than the original return (2-3 months, according to the IRS). Generally to claim a refund, your amended return must be filed within 3 years from the date of your original return or within 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

I haven’t been filing my tax returns what should I do?
First, you must determine if you were required to file in the years you did not file. There are many different items that could figure into this—such as your filing status, your sources of income, whether you had any tax withheld, etc. This is a link to the IRS instructions for filing requirements for 2007: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96623,00.html. If you determine you should have filed, contact us and we can handle all of your prior year filings. It is very important that you do not just continue to not file. If you owe money the penalties for not filing are high. If you are owed a refund you will lose your claim to it 3 years after the due date of the return.
 
When can I make contributions to my IRA?
Generally for any tax year, you can make a contribution to your IRA up until the original due date of the return (usually April 15). For example, for tax year 2014, you can make contributions from January 1, 2014 through April 15, 2015.

What are the differences between a Roth and a conventional IRA?
A traditional IRA lets you deduct contributions in the year you make them, and the distributions are included as income on your return when you withdraw from the IRA after reaching age 59½. A Roth IRA does not let you deduct the contributions, but you also do not report the distributions as income, no matter how much the Roth account has appreciated. With a Roth, you can exclude the income earned in the account from being taxed.
  
What are the consequences of early withdrawals from my retirement plans?

If you withdraw money from a 401(k) or an IRA before age 59 ½, the distribution is taxable and there is a 10% penalty on the taxable amount. The main exceptions that let you withdraw money early without penalty are as follows:

Qualified retirement plan distributions if you separated from service in or after the year you reach age 55 (does not apply to IRAs).

Distributions made as a part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments (made at least annually) for your life or the joint lives of you and your designated beneficiary.

Distributions due to total and permanent disability.

Distributions due to death (does not apply to modified endowment contracts)

Qualified retirement plan distributions up to (1) the amount you paid for unreimbursed medical expenses during the year minus (2) 10.0% of your adjusted gross income for the year.

IRA distributions made to unemployed individuals for health insurance premiums.

IRA distributions made for higher education expenses.

IRA distributions made for the purchase of a first home (up to $10,000).

Distributions due to an IRS levy on the qualified retirement plan.

Qualified distributions to reservists while serving on active duty for at least 180 days.

How should I keep records for my business driving?

Keep a log in your vehicle and record the purpose and mileage of each trip. You also need to record the odometer readings at the beginning and end of each year, as the IRS will ask you for total miles driven during the year. Keep your repair bills as these normally record odometer readings when the car is serviced.

My employer tells me I will receive a 1099. What does this mean for my taxes?

 When you receive a 1099, it means you are considered an independent contractor. You will not have any withholding or payroll taxes deducted from your pay. You should keep track of all business expenses and a journal of your mileage driven for work. If the amount you expect to receive is substantial, you should probably be making estimated tax payments. Please contact us if you have any questions about this.

I owe the IRS money. What are my options?

If you can afford to pay the amount you owe, it should be paid. But many times that is not the case. If you cannot afford to pay, you have several options. Ignoring the IRS should not be one of them!

The first option is to enter into an installment agreement with the IRS. To do this you need to fill out Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. This form is fairly easy to complete, but we strongly recommend that if you owe a substantial amount of money you work with us to secure your agreement.

The second option, which is much harder to get approved, is an offer in compromise. The IRS will be reluctant to do this if they feel you have the resources to eventually pay. You should not attempt an offer in compromise without professional help you can trust. The IRS has also issued a consumer alert, advising taxpayers to beware of promoters’ claims that tax debts can be settled for “pennies on the dollar” through the Offer in Compromise Program.