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Press Release

Save Money and Headaches with These CPA-Approved Tax Filing Tips

By:
Alonza Robertson, NYSSCPA Media Relations Manager
Published Date:
Jan 27, 2014

NEW YORK – (January 27, 2014)  - As the January 31 opening of the 2014 tax season approaches, many individuals and businesses are looking for an online software programs, or a paid tax preparer to help them complete their returns.

 
While most services, preparers and accountants are honest and provide excellent services, CPAs have a more stringent code of ethics to guide their professional conduct and full-time career experiences that can provide useful tools for tax filing and future financial planning.
 
Tax experts from the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA), the nation’s first accounting state society of trusted professionals, have compiled a short list of tax filing tips for this season and a few financial planning strategies to consider for 2014.
 
  1. Invest your refund for a year and earn money at a 50 percent return rate.
The SaveUSA program- now being offered as a pilot program in selected U.S. cities - offers incentives to low and moderate income earners to save at tax time by giving filers the opportunity to open a SaveUSA account with at least $200 of your refund. The program will match your savings amount 50 cents for each $1 you save and keep in the account for one year. The program is available on a first come first served basis and while funds last in New York. Go here for more information.
 
  1. Thanks to DOMA, same-sex couples now have the option to file federal taxes as married filing jointly or married filing separately.
If the couple can show proof that they were legally married in any state within the past three years; they can file their return – which includes income, gift and estate taxes – jointly. (You are also now entitled to amend past returns to reflect this change.) They may still have to file state returns as single depending on if their state of residence recognizes gay married or civil unions.
 
  1. Did you know about the health insurance premium tax credit for low-income filers?
The Affordable Care Act provides a new tax credit to help you afford health coverage purchased through the Marketplace. Advance payments of the tax credit can be used right away to lower your monthly premium costs. If you qualify, you may choose how much advance credit payments to apply to your premiums each month, up to a maximum amount.
 
  1. Did your home or property suffer damage or destruction in 2013?
Consider taking  the casualty loss deduction which covers any losses because of unexpected and unusual events including car accidents, disaster-related demolition, earthquakes, fires, floods, storms, tornados, and vandalism. According to IRS rules, you may deduct casualty and theft losses relating to your home, household items and vehicles on your federal income tax return. You may not deduct casualty and theft losses covered by insurance unless you file a timely claim for reimbursement, and you reduce the loss by the amount of any reimbursement or expected reimbursement.
 
  1. Tax Refund Anticipation Loans are a bad idea
Anticipation loans are offered through tax preparation companies for the short period between the date when the taxpayer receives it and the date when the IRS repays it by depositing the taxpayer’s refund into the lender’s account. The amount of the loan is the amount of your anticipated refund minus the loan fees and the tax preparation fee which can be very high (up to 72 percent according to the National Consumer Law Center). You must repay the loan even if your refund is frozen, less than expected or denied. If you can’t repay the loan, the lender can assign the debt to a collection agency and that unpaid debt will appear on your credit report.
 
  1. If you hire someone to help, check their PTIN; if you do it yourself, get an EFIN.
Anyone who prepares or assists in preparing federal tax returns for compensation must have a valid 2014 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) which is a number issued by the IRS to paid tax return preparers. It is used as the tax return preparer’s identification number and, when applicable, must be placed in the Paid Preparer section of a tax return that the tax return preparer prepared for compensation.
 
An Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) is a number issued by the IRS to individuals or firms that have been approved as authorized IRS e-file providers.  It is included with all electronic return data transmitted to the IRS. 
 
  1. Free Tax Help for Lower Income Filers
Due to resource constraints, the IRS will be doing fewer free walk-in tax return preparation. However you can find a volunteer help center by going to http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/http://www.myfreetaxes.com or calling311.
 
  1. Avoid common ID theft tax scams
Be vigilant when receiving any unexpected communication that is purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service or the New York State Department of Taxation. Tax scams perpetrators have been known to concoct elaborate telephone and email tax scams to collect your personal identification and banking information.

Official tax officials do not contact taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. Visit the IRS’ special identity theft section on their website for more information.

 
  1. E-file your taxes
E-filing your return is often times more secure, can be done for free in New York and  you’ll receive your refund up to two times faster than if you submit a paper return. E-filing your federal taxes is also free if your total annual income is $56,000 or less.
 
 
Tips to consider for future tax planning
 
  • Make charitable donations and keep the receipts.
 
  • Learn more about the benefits and flexibility of IRA and Roth IRS contributions.   If eligible make contributions for both 2013 and 2014.
 
  • Consider changing exemptions (form W-2) so more money gets into your paycheck during 2014.
 
  • Review and update your will and other important documents.
 
  • Additionally try to have your CPA run tax projections not just for the next year but for the next three – five years so you can plan accordingly. It may result in a plan for additional tax savings this year.
 
  • The NYSSCPA recommends that taxpayers be very careful when choosing a tax preparer. While most preparers provide excellent service to their clients, a few unscrupulous return preparers file false and fraudulent tax returns and ultimately defraud their clients. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares your return, you are ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.
 
  • Taxpayers should be sure to check the credentials of anyone they are considering to prepare their return. Check here to see if your CPA is licensed and registered in New York State.
 
The IRS also cautions taxpayers to be wary of return preparers who boast of obtaining larger refunds than others and avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of the refund.
New York State has similar rules for tax preparers of New York state tax returns. CPAs, unlicensed tax return preparers, are licensed and regulated by the state, have taken the CPA exam and met mandated experience and continuing education requirements.
 
Understanding the Relationship
 
How often do you and your preparer or accountant communicate about tax issues? Is that person available year round?
 
The NYSSCPA encourages taxpayers to find a CPA that you will be able to contact after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise. Many small businesses need help throughout the year, so be sure to check if your preparer or accounting firm is only open for tax season or year-round.
 
For media inquiries about these tips or to speak to NYSSCPA member, please contact Alonza Robertson at arobertson@nysscpa.org or call 212.719.8405.
 
About the NYSSCPA
 
Founded in 1897, the NYSSCPA is the premiere professional accounting association for more than 29,000 certified public accountants residing and practicing in New York State, encompassing all areas of public practice, including in government, education, and industry. Visit our website,www.nysscpa.org, for more information.