Accountants offer tax tips

Published 7:44 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tax season looms, but don’t wince. Help is on the way.

As citizens ready themselves for another go-around at filing their tax returns next April, local accountants have some useful advice to alleviate some pain.

James Siddens, of the Certified Public Accountant Professional Corporation, said organization is the key to proper tax preparation.

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“Be complete,” he said. “You don’t want to omit any deductions or credits that are available because you’ll pay too much tax, or omit anything else because you can end up with a penalty.”

Siddens said people should also familiarize themselves with changes to the process, such as new deductions and credits they should keep an eye on. This would include first-time home buyer credit, new energy credit, education credit as well as mileage rates. He said that for unemployment, the first $2,400 would be non-taxable and exempt from income.

Bob Roberts, the Roberts Group CPA, agrees on organization.

“Provide your preparer with all documents that are available, whether or not they’re important,” he said. “Let the preparer eliminate whatever information is not useful toward preparing the return.”

Roberts said people will come into his office and have problems or questions, and they won’t have all of the documents with them that they need. He stresses that people shoud provide all documents they have and not just one they think might suffice.

For those who prepare their own taxes, instead of hiring local professionals, Siddens said the best way to continue is to remain studious of federal tax laws and any changes that may surface. In case they miss or fail to understand something, a benefit could pass them by. The Internal Revenue Service won’t jump to remind you either.

“Something they missed would be in their favor, and they won’t ever now,” Siddens said. “The IRS won’t tell them they could have taken this deduction or credit.”

To study up, Siddens suggests visiting the IRS Web site, which he said offers helpful information on tax laws and how they work. But people must know what they’re looking for.

“It’s like telling a guy like me to fix his own carburetor,” Siddens said. “These days, there are so many things out there even for the simple returns. They change so often.”

He said that online tax services, such as Turbo Tax, advertise that they will alert users to such changes.

Roberts insisted that if someone was not aware of changes and things that might be different, they probably are not wise to prepare their own return.

“I think if someone is comfortable in preparing their own return, there’s no reason they shouldn’t,” Roberts said. “There are a lot of things that go into preparing a return that need to be kept in mind as one prepares. If they’re preparing online, all the standard deduction and personal exemption changes will be handled for them.”

Residents can find tax forms at the Selma-Dallas County public Library, according to director Becky Nichols. She said that federal tax forms are currently available, but state forms have not yet arrived. She said anyone is welcome to get the forms for free except for those printed from their computers, which cost 10 cents each.