watch out for shady tax preparers

Over the years, I’ve found that having an accountant prepare my taxes is a great help to me. My taxes are increasingly complicated with the business and the investments that have been added to my financial life. Back when I had a more traditional job, and few financial complications, it was easy to manage my own taxes. Today, though, it can take many of my precious hours to prepare my own taxes. I’m happy to have an accountant take care of everything.

But, as you get ready to have a tax preparer take care of everything, you need to think about what will make him or her happy. Your accountant will do a better job — and be happy to see you again next year — if you make some effort to make the job easier.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

If it’s April and you are just now making an appointment, your tax preparer probably hates you. This is a busy time, and it doesn’t help when you are trying to cram in there at the last minute. Don’t wait until the last minute to have your taxes done. I usually call my accountant toward the end of January to make an appointment in late February or early March.

Part of the reason that I make my appointments for those times is that many of my clients are slow about issuing paperwork. It’s true that my 1099 Forms should be in the mail (or the email) by January 31, but that doesn’t mean they are. Some years, I’m still getting paperwork the last week of February. I want to be able to make my appointment for when I am more likely to have all of my paperwork together. However, I don’t want to be trying to cram an appointment in later, so I go ahead and set it up in advance. My tax preparer appreciates it, and I have peace of mind knowing that it’s already on the books.

Make sure you are organized with your tax documentation throughout the year, and that you have a good idea of what to expect, so that you aren’t scrambling later. When you treat the whole year as a preparation for tax time, it makes things easier for you and for your tax preparer.

Organize Your Documents

My accountant once told me that he appreciates how organized I am. I separate my documents and receipts out ahead of time. It doesn’t take me very long, and it makes things easier for the tax preparer. I keep all of my business receipts together, my medical receipts together, and my charity receipts together. Other paperwork is also organized by document type. Not only does this organization make it easier for my accountant, but it also makes it easier for me to see that I have everything I need. There is nothing worse than getting to the tax preparer’s and then realizing that you are missing something. You have to go back for it, and that holds everyone up and adds to the stress, especially if you have waited until the last minute.

Many tax preparers offer checklists of things you should bring to your appointment. Go over the checklist and make sure that you are truly ready for your appointment. It makes the whole process easier and less stressful. Plus, when you are organized and early, you are less likely to forget something.

Today, some tax preparers can help you electronically. My accountant has a client system that allows remote clients to upload their information to a secure server. This is very helpful to me now that I’ve moved across the country, since it means that I don’t have to change accountants. The great thing about using the same tax preparer each year is that he or she gets to know you and your situation. My accountant understands my business, and has a lot of my basic information stored. The fact that I can keep using him means a great deal, since I don’t have to look for someone else who would have to start from scratch with my business and my situation.

In the end, a good relationship with your tax preparer is vital for a better experience. Do what you can to be organized and timely, and you and your accountant will both be happier — and less prone to mistakes.