Tips to Make Tax Prep Easier (And Less Stressful)
Contributor: Angela Zakon, CPA, Supervisor
The New Year is officially here. Most people use this time of year to make personal resolutions, such as eating healthier and exercising more. However, at Leone, McDonnell and Roberts, we recommend to our clients that they make this the year they finally resolve to make tax prep easier and less stressful. Here are some tips to help make that happen:
To Make Your 2019 Tax Return Prep Easier (after 12/31)
Take a look at your prior-year tax return or the tax organizer you receive from your tax preparer and identify the info you need to accumulate.
- Designate a spot (folder, box, corner of your desk, electronic folder) to accumulate all documents you receive that are labeled “important tax documents,” such as:
- Brokerage statement
- If you are missing documents (such as your real estate taxes or a W-2 from a former employer), request them now, not on April 14th. It will be easier to get the info in January then later in the year.
- If you didn’t itemize last year and your situation hasn’t changed, you might not need to provide mortgage statements, real estate taxes, and medical expenses. Check with your tax preparer to determine if there is no need for you provide that information.
- Get it done early (aka don’t wait until the deadline). The process will be less stressful if you give yourself enough time to answer any follow up questions if you don’t wait until the deadline. Also, You can still do some tax planning after 12/31 but before 4/15, such as IRA contributions and Health Savings account contributions. In case you need another reason – you won’t owe less by putting it off. Getting it done early will give you time to decide how you want to pay a potential tax due.
- Get help from a professional tax preparer. The tax code gets more complicated each year, and it is a lot to keep up with.
- E-file your return – at a minimum, it saves you a trip to the post office. Also, if you are getting a refund, you will get it faster by electronically filing it.
- Set up your system to make 2020 easier too
- Be happy that 2019 taxes are done. Celebrate checking this task off your list!
To Make Your 2020 Tax Return Prep Easier:
- Save your 2019 returns in a safe place either electronically or in hard copy so that you can find it if you need it. Keep the documents you used for the return with the return so you can quickly identify what you need to prepare your return in future years.
- Have a spot where you save tax documents throughout the year that you will need when you prepare your return.
- If you are a business owner, keep your personal and business income and expenses separate. Designate a credit card only for business. Have a different business checking account.
- Regularly (monthly) review your credit card statements and monthly bills to identify anything you need to keep for taxes and note it now. It will be easier to remember what these charges are now than at the end of the year when you might not remember.
- If you owed money with your 2019 return, consider increasing your withholding or estimated tax payments. It might be less stressful to pay over the course of the year instead of having an amount due when you complete your return.
- If you have changes that might impact your 2020, contact your tax preparer (Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, PA) early so you have time to plan.
About the Blog Author: Angela Zakon, CPA, joined Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, P.A. in 2008. As a supervisor in the firm’s North Conway office, she specializes in providing audit, review and compilation services to nonprofit organizations. In addition, Angela assists with tax planning and preparation services for individuals and organizations. She currently serves as the treasurer for the White Mountain Community Health Center. Prior to joining Leone, McDonnell and Roberts, P.A., Angela worked as a training presenter and consultant for a national audit quality improvement firm and as an audit manager at an international accounting firm.