The campaign commercials bombarding me -- online, on the radio, and on TV got me thinking about the crazy claims that are made during tax season. I know, scary to think that elections and income taxes have similarities. Big claims, designed to convince you to go to one tax preparer over another, are already beginning to pop up and just like with big election promises, some fact checking is in order. Let's look at the most prevalent (often least true) claims and go over some ways that you can make them more truth than fiction. And, finally, I cover a few claims you should look for when it comes to tax preparation.
GET YOUR REFUND FASTER than anyone else. As if anyone can get the IRS to move any faster. No preparer can get your refund back to you faster than another can.
Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit are the two things you can do to get your refund as quickly as possible. The IRS deposits most refunds within 21 days of acknowledging receipt of the tax return, as long as your routing number and account number are accurate. In fact, many taxpayers who choose direct deposit and e-file get their refunds much faster than 21 days.
GET A BIGGER REFUND with this tax provider or software. The refund you are entitled to is what you're entitled to -- period, there is no bigger refund.
So ... unless the tax preparer is practicing fraud and padding your return, they cannot get you a bigger refund than another preparer can. A good tax return preparer will prepare your return accurately and get you the largest refund you are eligible for -- period.
FILE YOUR TAXES WITHOUT FORM W-2. IRS requires all your W-2s before you file. The IRS does not allow early tax filing with a pay stub.
Many payroll companies offer electronic W-2 download, which allows you to download the W-2s and print them before you receive them in the mail. In addition, many of the larger tax services and software companies allow W-2 download directly into their tax program so you don't have to bring the W-2 to the office, which means you may not need to have the physical copy of the W-2. Remember, it is important that you have the actual data from your W-2s and not data from pay stubs; otherwise, your return may not be accurate.
IRS MIGHT RUN OUT OF MONEY SO FILE WITH US NOW. And Santa and the Easter Bunny are getting married on April 1. There is no truth to this claim whatsoever.
Although, it is a good idea to file early because it can help prevent Tax Identity Theft since once your return is received by the IRS, nobody else can use your Social Security number to file a tax return. Plus, the sooner you file the sooner you will get your refund.
SOFTWARE MAKES TAXES EASY. The only people software makes taxes "easy" for are those who don't know taxes. If taxes were easy, there would not be professional tax preparers. It does not matter if high income or low income or "simple situation", the fact is taxes are complicated and there are many tax breaks for all income levels and the new healthcare rules make taxes even more complex.
Get all your records together, review last year's return, and do some comparison-shopping to see if preparing your own return might be feasible. I said, feasible -- not easy. Generally, taxes are complicated; good tax software can help but in reality, if your taxes are not easy to begin with then software isn't going to make them easier.
Now that you know the claims to be suspicious of, here are some claims that you should look for to ensure you get an accurate, professionally prepared tax return and the service you deserve.
Accuracy Guarantee - Make sure that if the preparer makes a mistake that they will help you correct the mistake and pay the interest and any penalties assessed by the IRS or the State.
FREE Audit Assistance - This is a big one! If you receive an audit notice from the IRS, you don't want to go it alone; make sure that the preparer will be around to help with questions or to help you understand why your tax return was prepared the way it was.
We Sign ALL Tax Returns We Prepare - The IRS, and the various State taxing authorities require paid preparers to sign all tax returns they prepare. IRS fines preparers $50 for each missing signature AND each missing identification number. Don't use a preparer who won't sign your return. It is a big red flag that something is not right.
Estimate Your Tax Preparation Fees BEFORE Preparing Your Return - You wouldn't buy groceries or have your car repaired without checking the price first, don't buy your tax return without knowing the approximate cost.
For more advice, see the IRS article "Tips for Choosing a Tax Return Preparer."
It is up to you to find the best tax preparer to suit your needs, expectations, and price range. Since they advertise and market almost anyway they want, including claims for "Biggest Refund" or "Fastest Refund," or simply "We are better than everyone else," it is up to you verify advertising and social media claims. Before you hire a tax preparer, research how long they have been in business, consumer reviews, price and service delivery guarantees, and then make the best choice for you, your family, and your money.