I agree with the context of this article which is why I posted it but I want my clients to feel like they have an accountant in the family and can call me anytime.
Think you’re stressed about tax season? Imagine how your accounting professional feels. Not only is this an accountant’s busiest time of the year, but he or she never knows exactly what to expect from each client.
As entrepreneurs know, time is money. If you can help your accountant save time you’ll get better results—and likely pay less in tax preparation fees as well.
Get It Right From the Start
Going back and forth with your accountant wastes their time and yours. Do your best to submit accurate information from the beginning. Also, if you’re going to do your own bookkeeping (and you’re not a trained bookkeeper), make sure you at least hire someone to help you set up your system properly.
“Bookkeeping is the cornerstone of tax preparation. Many people do not give it the high regard the process demands,” says Donna Merrill, founder of Frisco, Texas-based Business Untangled, Inc. “If the bookkeeping is off-kilter or otherwise incomplete, there is no way to get a proper tax return.”
Merrill loves QuickBooks; however, she says it does not do a good job of guiding users to set up their chart of accounts properly. “This causes no end of problematic bookkeeping to follow,” she warns.
If QuickBooks isn’t your thing, enter your financial information into an organized spreadsheet, suggests Andrew Poulos, principal of Poulos Accounting & Consulting, Inc. in Atlanta. “The better the record keeping and documentation, the less expensive the tax preparation fee will be,” he says.
Sticking to paper invoices, statements, and records? “Have all the envelopes opened, papers removed and unfolded,” suggests Merrill. It’s a small courtesy, and it can save time.
Fudging it is not a strategy. “Some clients believe that by supplying partial facts and ambiguous data to their accountant, they’ll be able to squeak by on deducting that particular business expense,” observes Thomas J. Williams, a virtual tax accountant who operates Your Small Biz Accountant, LLC.
Don’t Overlook Details
Deducting a home office? Gather the information your accountant needs. “Have the following information: value of home, square footage of home, and square footage of the area you’ve designated as the office,” says Folasade Ayegbusi, owner of Suncrest Financials and Accountingwithfolasade.com. “This will prevent the accountant from having to search your county property records and to avoid estimates,” she says.
If your numbers don’t make sense to you, they may not make sense to your accountant either. “Make sure the financial statements you provide are accurate, final, and that the opening balances match the numbers you provided the year before. Often, changes are made to the accounting records after they were submitted to the accountant, and a lot of time and energy is spent determining these changes,” says Ken LaCroix, president, Orange County, California-based Signature Analytics. “That is time better spent for tax planning and strategy.”
Don’t Procrastinate Too Long
Waiting until the last minute to get everything together can be costly. “Don’t get to January or February and tell your accountant what you did; you should have called them during the year and told them what you were thinking of doing,” suggest Jeffrey Beebe, a CPA in Boise, Idaho. “Often there are choices which can help you avoid taxes.” Although that advice may not help you this tax year, it’s worth heeding for next year, which will come more quickly than you realize.
A specific example is retirement savings. “We consistently work with clients who come to us trying to reduce their taxes, but it’s too late,” warns Kirsten Curry, Seattle attorney and founder of Leading Retirement Solutions.
“When it comes to reducing a company’s taxable revenue and a business owner’s taxable income, the regulations generally require that a company-sponsored retirement plan—like a 401(k), defined benefit, or profit share plan—must be in place by the last day of the company’s fiscal year. The contributions to the plan can be made after the close of the company’s fiscal year, but the retirement plan must be in place on or before the last day,” she says.
Planning ahead with your accountant can help you avoid a major tax bill (and potentially a tax lien) if you can’t pay what you owe. A tax lien on your business has a major negative impact on your business credit scores and can hold you back from business loans and financing you might need down the road. (You can check your personal and business credit scores for free on Nav.com.)
Get on the Same Page
Just like you need a doctor or dentist you feel comfortable with, you need to make sure your accounting professional is on the same page as you. “Be clear about how much risk you are willing to take,” says Crystal Stranger, EA, president of 1st Tax. “[Sometimes] tax law is not black and white when it comes to business deductions; there are many types of deductions that could be questionable down the line, but have not been technically disallowed by statute or judicial precedent,” she says.
If you want someone who will push the envelope, you need to be clear about that. And if you want to pay a little more tax to further reduce your chances of an audit, your accountant needs to know. “The important thing is to find the tax advisor who you are comfortable working with, and is comfortable with the level you are at,” she adds.
Finally, as much as you may hate dealing with taxes, remember your accountant is not the enemy. He or she is trying to help you get your taxes filed as accurately as possible, while saving you as much money as possible. Help your accountant help you and you’ll both be happier.