Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Getting Help With Your Tax Return

Tax season is here in full swing, and last week the IRS announced that all taxpayers (including those who itemize) are now free to file their returns. Fewer than 20% of Americans prepare their returns without a tax professional or software. For everyone looking for help this tax season, take heed the following tips. If you can think of any not included below, let me know via Twitter (@RoniDeutch).

1. Do Not Delay

The April deadline may seem far away, but you really only have a few weeks to get your return prepared. If you have not yet thought about your taxes, I highly recommend getting your financial documents together as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the busier tax preparation offices get, and it is no fun running around desperately trying to get help with your return at the last minute.

2. Call a Roni Deutch Tax Center

There are dozens of Roni Deutch Tax Center locations across the country, to find one near you, head over to No Roni Deutch Tax Center in your neighborhood? Not to worry, many stores offer over the phone tax preparation services. Meaning you could get your tax returns filed without having to leave the couch!

3. Ask a Friend or Family Member for Help

Do you have a friend or family member who is a certified public accountant or a tax preparer? Or maybe someone who just happens to be familiar with federal and local tax laws? By asking around you might be able to get help filing your returns with a “friends and family discount.”

4. Ask for a Referral

If none of your friends or family members can help you file your return, you can always ask who does their taxes. You’ll be more comfortable than finding someone out of a phone book and many tax offices offer referral programs. It’s a double whammy: you get quality tax help and your friend might score a discount!

5. Own a Business?

Business taxes are more complicated, so if you run a small business and do not already have a tax person, I would recommend asking other business owners in your community for a referral. It is critical that you find a business-savvy tax professional to ensure you do not pay the IRS any more in taxes then you have to. If you do not know any other business owners in your area, try going to a local chamber of commerce meeting to ask for referrals.

6. Look Up Reviews Online

The internet is awash with people who want to prepare your taxes. To help you sort the good from the not-so-good, you should be able to find some relevant user reviews. One or two negative reviews in a sea of positive shouldn’t scare you off. On the other hand, if you find more negative than positive reviews, this might not be the tax professional for you.

7. Ask For an Estimate

I recommend always calling potential tax preparers and asking for an estimate over the phone. While rates vary based on how complex your taxes are, an estimate should be easy enough for a professional to provide.

8. Make an Appointment Today

If you decide to hire a professional to prepare and file your return, you should try to make an appointment today! Tax professionals are swamped during tax season. If you procrastinate too long, you’ll run out of time and will be on your own. And that’s an unpleasant situation to find yourself in on April 15.

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