Calculator on Top of Tax Forms

April 15 is rapidly approaching and that means that we all need to get our taxes in order. For a lot of us, that means finding someone to help us: not only do most people dislike handing over a percentage of their income to the government, there are plenty of complexities that make an expert’s opinion invaluable. There are several parts to the process of preparing taxes, and you might be surprised just how much you can hand off to someone else.

  1. Scanning Your Receipts: You can get all of your receipts scanned and categorized, simply by mailing them to Shoeboxed. The company will scan them all in and put them online in a format that you can import into whatever bookkeeping software you use.
  2. Collecting Your Tax Documents: Depending on the documentation you need to prepare your taxes, like your W-4, you can often arrange to have documentation mailed directly to your tax preparer, allowing them to take care of collecting your documents.
  3. Collecting Your Documents, Part Two: There are specific types of information necessary for each credit and deduction. For instance, if you’re taking a deduction for child care, you need not only the total you paid for child care but also the care provider’s tax ID number and other details. Many virtual assistants are able to pull together this sort of information.
  4. Getting Answers to Tax Questions: You don’t have to hunt around on the IRS’ website or through any tax books to get answers to any tax questions. You can call the IRS for help and get immediate answers Monday through Friday.
  5. Keeping a Mileage Log: If you use your vehicle for business purposes, you’re expected to keep a mileage log. There are a number of different ways to speed up the process, from installing a mileage logging device in your car to texting your mileage to a virtual assistant to collect all the data.
  6. Looking for Deductions and Credits: Most taxpayers don’t know how many available deductions and credits are available. But finding a CPA or tax preparer who knows your industry can actually save you money when it comes time to pay your taxes.
  7. Finding Free Tax Help: There’s free tax help for a number of groups. For instance, members of the AARP can get help through that organization and members of the military can use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.
  8. Calculating Use Taxes: In many states, individuals owe use tax on anything they buy over the phone or online. Calculating your use tax can be as simple as forwarding all your Amazon.com receipts to a virtual assistant and having her add them up.
  9. Considering Your Tax Status: If you have any income other than a paycheck from an employer, you might want to have an accountant find you an alternative business structure. While most people operate as sole proprietorships, there are tax advantages to establishing another status, however.
  10. Projecting Next Year’s Taxes: By working with a CPA who is also a business consultant, you can get projections on your income for the next year as well as for your taxes.
  11. Handling Payroll Taxes: If you operate a business with employees, payroll taxes are a fact of life. However, there are many bookkeeping and payroll firms able to take care of all your payroll obligations.
  12. Researching New Tax Situations: Thinking of expanding your business, buying a rental property, or otherwise changing your income? A good CPA can research how such changes will affect your taxes and whether they are really affordable.
  13. Taking Care of Sales Taxes: Even if your business is small, you may be obligated to collect sales tax from your customers. A good tax professional can set up an automated system to both collect sales tax and pay it to the state.
  14. Financial Planning and Estate Planning: There are a lot of tax implications that go along with trust funds, charitable giving, and the like. Your CPA or financial planner can report on just what those implications include — as well as recommend ways to limit your tax liability through estate planning.
  15. Scheduling Payments Automatically: If you’re obligated to pay estimated quarterly payments, you can schedule such payments through the Treasury’s EFTPS site and have them automatically withdrawn from your bank account.
  16. Automating Your Refund: You can arrange to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account — your tax preparer can typically set it up. It’s not the same thing as a tax refund anticipation loan, though, and don’t let your tax preparer make you think otherwise.
  17. Getting Tax Forms: While you can order copies of all of the IRS’ forms online, you can typically pick up copies of each form from your local public library.
  18. Catching Up on Bookkeeping: If you’ve been a little lax about your bookkeeping — or if you just want to get it off your plate in the next year, you can hand it off to a professional bookkeeper in your area. Getting your books up to date in time for April 15 may come with a price tag.
  19. Keeping Up with Bookkeeping: If you don’t want a last-minute rush to get your books up-to-date next spring, you can find a bookkeeper to work with on a regular basis. You can typically find a local bookkeeper who can work with you, no mater how complicated or simple your books might be.
  20. Preparing Your Federal Tax Return: There are plenty of brand-name tax preparers ready to help you. However, be warned that if your taxes have any complexities (like income beyond a day job), it’s worth shopping around for a tax preparer experienced with your particular type of situation.
  21. Preparing Your State Taxes: Not all tax preparers automatically prepare your state tax returns. While they are typically easier than federal returns, it’s worthwhile to find a tax preparer who will do everything at once.
  22. Finding a Tax Professional: In most tax situations, you’ll need a CPA or tax preparer to get you through your tax return. If there’s a problem, though, you’ll want to have the number of a tax professional (such as an attorney). The National Association of Tax Professionals can make finding such a person much easier.
  23. Taking Care of Tax Problems: If an employer isn’t handling their taxes correctly, there can be a ripple effect in your own taxes. However, the IRS has made it easy to inform the agency of such issues and let them handle those problems rather than having to hire a tax attorney to sort out the mess for you.
  24. Finding a Copy of an Old Return: If you can’t find a copy of a past income tax return, you can arrange for the IRS to send you a copy rather than rooting through old files.
  25. Getting Help With Owed Taxes: Because of the recession, the IRS is attempting to accommodate taxpayers who need to create payment plans or have other unusual needs. Contact your local IRS office in order to make such arrangements.

Image credit: Fullerene / iStockphoto
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