What Should I Do Before I Prepare My Taxes?

What Should I Do Before I Prepare My Taxes?

January 17, 2020

Before you actually begin filling out your tax return paperwork this year, make sure you’ve taken all the necessary steps to prepare yourself to ensure the process goes quickly and smoothly. Here is a quick overview of some key tips for preparing taxes in Hayward, CA:

  • Select a tax prep professional: You may wish to do your own taxes using an online service or in the old-fashioned pencil-and-paper manner, but if you would rather have a professional handle your taxes, it’s important that you choose a tax preparer ahead of time. Tax prep specialists will get bogged down with a lot of work during the first several months of the year, so if you procrastinate in finding one, you might find it difficult to find someone who can get to your return in an efficient manner.
  • Schedule a meeting: As soon as you’ve chosen a tax prep specialist, you should schedule a meeting to discuss your documents and everything that will go into preparing your return. The sooner you get this done, the sooner they can get to work for you.
  • Collect all important documents: There’s a variety of important documents you’re going to need to gather up to send to your tax prep specialist (or to organize for your own purposes, if you’re doing your own taxes). You should have all the important tax documents you need from your banks, employers, brokerage firms and others by the end of January. These forms include Form W-2, 1099 forms for income such as dividends, interest and independent contracting, 1098 forms for mortgage interest paid and W-2G forms for gambling winnings. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of the previous year’s tax return.
  • Organize receipts: Hopefully you will have kept receipts throughout the year that can be used for tax deduction purposes. In most cases, you will simply file with the standard deduction, especially in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that doubled the standard deduction. However, if you fall among the minority of taxpayers whose deductions do make it worth itemizing, you’re going to need those receipts to give accurate information and to serve as proof in the event the IRS comes calling. Charitable contributions, for example, require written acknowledgement if you donated more than $250.
  • Get an extension if needed: If you are going to need more time to prepare for your tax return, you can file an application for an extension up to October 15 to file your tax return. You’ll still need to estimate any owed taxes and make the payment by the April 15 deadline.
  • Plan for your refund: How will you handle any refund you receive? You can either apply it toward next year’s taxes, get a direct deposit into your checking or savings account, contribute the refund to accounts like IRAs, HSAs or ESAs or purchase savings bonds through Treasury Direct.

For more information and tips for preparing taxes in Hayward, CA, contact Menjivar & Company CPAs, Inc. today.

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