Sometimes, it makes sense to have someone else to do your taxes.
If you have complex taxes, an accountant can make your life a little easier — and be worth every penny.
However, your accountant can’t work miracles. He or she can only prepare your taxes based on information that you provide. This means that you need to bring in everything needed to have your taxes done properly.
What to Bring to Your Accountant for Taxes
First of all, you need to have all of your personal information.
Bring in your Social Security number, as well as the numbers associated with your dependents. The first time I used an accountant for taxes, I didn’t bring in my son’s Social Security number. It slowed things down a little bit, since I had to go back home to get it.
Gather your personal information, including your name and address, and the names of your spouse and dependents. If you have a business, make sure that you bring in the tax identification number associated with your business, as well as the address of your business.
All of your income information should be brought to your accountant.
The IRS expects you to report all of your income, no matter where it comes from. This includes investment income as well.
If you have a business, you need to bring information about your business income. Prepare a profit and loss statement (a P&L) for your company and bring that to your accountant.
Deduction and Credit Documentation
You should have appropriate documentation for your deductions and credits. Bring this documentation to your accountant — preferably organized in a way that makes it somewhat easy for him or her to better prepare your taxes.
In addition to documentation, particularly receipts, you should also have applicable tax ID/Social Security numbers.
If you are claiming a child care credit, for example, you need the tax ID number of the child care provider. If you are claiming losses for investments, you should have the cost basis information.
Having all of this information before you go into your appointment with the accountant can help make the whole process smoother.
If you have documents sent to you from others, such as your mortgage interest information or what you have paid in tuition and fees, you should bring that in to the accountant.
Organizing Your Information
I generally keep my tax documents in a particular file throughout the year. From the receipts for my health care costs (I have a Health Savings Account) to the receipts from my business-related travel to the interest statement from the mortgage, I file the information as I receive it. That way, I know exactly where it is, and it doesn’t take much time to get it all together.
When I bring in my information, I put similar documents together. I group my my charitable donation receipts together, and keep my business expenses together. It makes it easier, in general, for the accountant to verify the information when I have it organized ahead of time.
Why Hire an Accountant?
It’s true that I could do my taxes on my own. And some argue that, since I do much of the organization beforehand, that I might as well fill in the forms.
But there are a lot of forms, and my business requires that I file K-1 Forms as well. It doesn’t take me long to organize my tax documents (since I do it throughout the year), and the accountant is much faster at getting everything filled in and taken care of.
For me, it’s more of a convenience thing and a time thing. I value my time above money, and the accountant does a better job than me at getting it filled in much faster than I could do it. With investments, and my business, it can be tedious and time consuming to read all of those instructions and fill in the forms properly. The accountant does it in much less time, and an accountant will usually represent you to the IRS if you are audited.
In the end, using an accountant has been good a arrangement for me. And, when I bring in everything I need, the whole process is much faster and easier.