Company: Spectra Energy
Title: FERC Compliance Specialist, Former Auditor and Past Volunteer Tax Preparer
What are things that people can do year-round that will help them be better equipped for tax season?
In order to prepare for tax season, you should keep accurate records of income that you incur throughout the year. That includes income from your employer, small business income, income from rental property and income from savings and investments. Additionally, be aware of items that are deductibles and credits that you can take advantage of in your situation. You should keep business and personal expenses separate. If you have had any life changes in the year (including marriage, divorce, birth of a child, change in dependents, moving expenses, or job loss) be aware of the fact that those changes may impact the filing status, tax bracket, personal exemptions and deductions that you qualify for.
How should tax payers go about finding the perfect tax preparer for their needs?
You should do your research and get recommendations from individuals that you trust. Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Tax Accountants, Tax Attorneys and Tax Franchises such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt are all good sources for tax preparation. Be able to explain your situation and ask them about their experience with others with similar needs that you have. Be leery of anyone that guarantees you will get a refund or pushes you to take advantage of a tax refund advance.
What are the top 5 things people can do to help itemize their taxes?
Understand what expenses are considered itemized deductions and keep those in mind throughout the year and not just at tax time.
Retain receipts for deductible items such as charitable contributions
Look at your itemized deductions such as medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income items throughout the year to estimate if you will meet various thresholds
Remember that sales tax is an itemized deduction, so if you make a large purchase such as a car or boat in the year, it can work in your favor.
There are also lots of overlooked itemized deductions. Be sure to check with your tax preparer and see if you meet the qualifications.