Do you need help with your taxes?
Speaking of taxes, there are a lot of people who really need some help with their taxes. More people file for taxes than graduate from college.
And if you need help for your taxes, more and more people are going to someplace called a C.P.A. or, in English, a tax accountant. A C.P.A. is a tax-preparation professional. If you need help — especially if you need help if you have an income or a partner with an income — you may want to think of going through a C.P.A. The reason you may want to have a C.P.A. look at your taxes is the IRS has lots of suggestions for tax planning. So C.P.A.s are generally experts at giving you that advice.
Do you have a C.P.A.?
If you don’t have a C.P.A., here are some things to look for:
• Do your final tax returns?
You need someone to make sure you get an assessment of your tax returns by the end of the calendar year. The C.P.A. who is doing your final tax returns needs to file a report with the Internal Revenue Service. If you don’t file all your taxes by the end of the year, you are still subject to penalties if you don’t file on time.
• Should you change your accountant?
If you’re not happy with a C.P.A., you might want to find someone else. If you have a C.P.A. who has gone through changes in compensation, the C.P.A. would either be paid less or required to pay higher fees in future years because of that. So if the C.P.A. you’re dealing with hasn’t gone through this change, you should decide whether you want to continue with that C.P.A.
• Is your C.P.A. going to hire you this year?
If you get paid a large percentage of the fee from the year before and it’s your first tax year with the C.P.A., the C.P.A. might hire you this year to handle your taxes.
• Should you trust the C.P.A. with your identity theft information?
If your C.P.A. tells you to give the C.P.A. your Social Security numbers, and the C.P.A. isn’t going to look at them, you need to be aware that this kind of information might be easily used.
• Should you trust your C.P.A. with other information about you?
Do you have another personal information, like your Social Security number, that your C.P.A. might not ask about? If you give this personal information to a C.P.A., the C.P.A. will ask about it. But if the C.P.A. doesn’t know about it, you should be more careful about what information you give your C.P.A.
• What do you think of the info your C.P.A. has about you?
Do you like how a C.P.A.’s done your taxes in the past? Do you have an idea of what the C.P.A. is going to do with your finances, and what the taxes will be like?
There are also a lot of people who think they should do their own taxes. But if you pay someone else to do it for you, it’s a great idea to talk to them about what they will do. It will save you time.
The Information columns in this series are written by Laura Ungar, a Reuters blogger who is the author of The New Portfolio.