Are you ready to complete your taxes for 2015?

tax document imageDo you have all of your documents ready to input into your tax software, or to take to your tax preparer?

If you own a home, you should have mortgage interest statements (Form 1098)  from your bank which should also show any property taxes that you paid for the year.  These are important documents if you itemize your deductions.

You must also collect any documents supporting your gifts to qualified charitable organizations even if those gifts were non-cash, such as clothing, furniture and household items.

You will also need your Form W-2 if you were employed by a company, or your Form 1099 if you were working as an independent contractor and own your own business.

I usually put all of these documents in a single file, so that everything is together and in one place for me to enter into my software.  Do you have a method that works for you?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please leave a comment below.

Write Down Your Year End Odometer Reading

odometerRemember to record your odometer reading at 12-31-2015 if you are self employed and use your vehicle for business.  If you missed the reading on 12-31-2015 then record it NOW in the first week of January 2016.

The odometer reading is very important in keeping track of your mileage.  You will need to know your TOTAL mileage for the year, in addition to your BUSINESS mileage.for the year.

The IRS requires written records of travel, the business and total miles for the year, and the business purpose of each trip.   .See my related post for the best easy mileage booklet to buy in order to record your mileage all year.


Choose Your Tax Preparer Wisely

tax messageIRS Tax Tip 2016-06

If someone helps you do your taxes, you’re not alone. The IRS asks you to choose your tax return preparer wisely – for good reason. You are responsible for the information on your income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares your return. Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:

1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of certain preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:

  • Attorneys.
  • CPAs.
  • Enrolled Agents.
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.
  • Enrolled Actuaries.
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants.

Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. However, new rules apply to the rights of non-credentialed tax preparers to represent their clients before the IRS. Non-credentialed preparers without an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion – may only prepare tax returns. The new rules do not allow them to represent clients before the IRS on any returns prepared and filed after December 31, 2015. Annual Filing Season Program participants can represent clients in limited situations. For more, visit and see the Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications page.

2. Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

3. Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund. Also avoid those who boast bigger refunds than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you – not into your preparer’s bank account.

4. Ask to E-file Your Return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has safely processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns.

5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available. You may want to contact your preparer after this year’s April 18 due date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

6. Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure your total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Do not use a preparer who will e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

7. Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.

8. Review Your Return Before Signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

9. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN. Be sure you get a copy of your return.

10. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients; however, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. UseForm 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on at any time.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on

Additional IRS Resources:

Clean Out Your Closet for More Tax Write-Offs

charity donation receiptIt’s the last week of 2015 and it’s time to clean out your closets, search your garage, and round up anything you don’t use anymore that would be useful to someone else.  Load your car, and get those items over to your favorite charity.  Clothing, printers, copy machines, medical equipment, shoes, books, toys, anything that is reusable and in good condition will be accepted.

You have until December 31st to donate to your favorite charity and the tax deduction can be sizable.  Be sure to assign a value to each item that you donate, keep a list, and total the page for all items.  For Goodwill, I usually attach a listing to the official receipt they give you (sample pictured here). Be sure to ask for the receipt.  Your charity will not assign the values for you. This will take some effort, but it will be worth it, if you itemize your deductions on your tax return. If you do NOT itemize, then you CANNOT deduct your charitable contributions.

Five Reasons to E-File Your Tax Return

 IRS TAX TIP 2013-03

If you haven’t tried IRS e-file before, now is the time. Most taxpayers – more than 80 percent – file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1 billion individual tax returns safely and securely since the nationwide debut of electronic filing in 1990. Fewer people file a paper tax return every year. Here are five good reasons to e-file your tax return: Continue reading

Bartering – Four Things We Need to Know

The IRS wants to remind small business owners that the fair market value of property or services received through barter is taxable income.

Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Usually there is no exchange of cash. However, the fair market value of the goods and services exchanged must be reported as income by both parties.

Here are four facts on bartering : Continue reading

Virtual Tax Preparation

No, it’s  not me in this picture. But .. it is a photo of a woman on Skype or in Video Chat, connecting with the person who called her.  And it could be YOU!

It’s easy to meet face to face, even when you can’t physically be there.

You get to stay in the comfort of your home,  while  I  do the number crunching from my office, and together we can crank out your return in no time.  You can come to my office for signing or we can meet at an agreed upon location and sign the return.

It’s amazing what we can do with the power of the Internet, video chat, and more.   Or, if you are more conservative, we can do it all by phone.