MOST FOLKS DON’T EMBRACE TAX TIME WITH HUGS AND KISSES. Some fear they owe more than expected. It’s also bad timing, right in the middle of the Florida season, when businesses are busy with snowbirds and tourists, and society and charitable events fill calendars.
Instead of pushing thoughts about taxes until March or April, take a new tactic toward your taxes in 2015. Your caffeine-fueled accountant will be grateful, and you’ll save time and money.
BEAT THE RUSH
Procrastination is a big pet peeve among accountants. Shoot for mid-February to submit business tax info and documents, since filing deadlines start in mid-March. “We get very busy when it comes close to deadlines,” says Ken Thomas, a partner with Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC in Bradenton. “If it comes in after mid-February, we have to make a decision as to whether we can complete it in time. If people get their information in late, we may require extensions.”
DITCH THE PAPER BAG
“We love people who take responsibility for their books and records,” says CPA Ken Honick of Pellegrino Honick McFarland & Miller, P.A. Handing over a bag or shoebox filled with receipts will draw the ire of accountants, and their extra time will increase your bill. “The less time it takes, the cheaper it’s going to be for the client,” Thomas says. “The more organized it is, the lower the costs will be.”
ORGANIZE YOUR INFO
Use accounting software such as QuickBooks to record expenses, manage cash flow and reconcile bank accounts every month. “Even though they use accountant systems such as QuickBooks, people don’t reconcile their bank accounts to them,” says Sarasota CPA John Michael Smith. “Your records are only going to be as good as your recording.”
Accountants don’t need all your receipts. Create a summary of assets bought or sold, accounts receivable, and other expenses, such as health care and charitable contributions. “It’s not up to me to decide whether what they bought at Office Depot was personal or business. That’s their responsibility,” Honick says.
MAKE SPECIFIC NOTATIONS
If you want to provide a check register and bank and credit card statements to an accountant, identify what each check is for and the reason for each credit card transaction. “It avoids us having to go back and ask later,” Thomas says.
Fill out the tax organizer for personal taxes. Accounting firms typically send clients a worksheet to complete. Be sure to note life changes, such as moving or having a child.
GATHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Going back and forth two or more times to gather all your documents creates frustration, Smith says. Provide tax documents, such as 1099s, and the annual summary and December statement for bank, investment and credit card accounts. Bring in, or submit electronically, all the pages, not just those you think are most important.
If the business ownership or structure has changed, or if it has received outside funding, provide those legal and financial documents. For equipment bought or sold, submit invoices or summarize what was purchased, when it was bought and the cost. Provide records that show the business mileage and the trip purpose. “It’s surprising how often people don’t think to bring that with them,” Honick says.
GET ON THE CALENDAR
And get a jump on 2016. Meet with your accountant at least once before the end of the current year to discuss your finances and any tax-saving decisions. Honick says that even learning about a death in the family or medical problems could bring up important questions that impact tax filings.
“Once year-end hits, everything is in the books, basically, and you’re stuck with the result,” Thomas says. “Meet with your accountant for tax planning and communicate with them sometime in the fall.”
If you still prefer to have the accountant compile everything from a check register, bring it in each quarter, instead of once a year. Honick adds: “That would be a major valentine.” ■ By Lori Johnston