Surviving the Seasonal Stress of Filing Taxes in Newton MA

Tax Preparation Services in Newton MASurviving the Seasonal Stress of Filing Taxes in Newton MA

It’s often said that the winter holidays are the most stressful time of year, but I bet anyone who has to file an income tax return could easily argue against that contention. With mounting anxiety, Americans often procrastinate for weeks or months before rushing around to collect all the necessary paperwork they need to file. Finally they sit down to face the task – often unaware of which way their return will fall. Will they owe this year or get a tax refund?

 

The economic demands of our day make this season of stress even more challenging for many. With income barely meeting their needs and unexpected expenses straining an already tight budget, many people dread the thought of an additional tax bill. On the flip side is the relief felt when they find that they’ll be getting a refund check in the mail.

 

Knowing that the anxiety-inducing job of filing a tax return is inevitable simply means that postponing the task just adds to the stress. So no matter what you may expect, whether good or bad, the first step in easing the stress is to get down to business. Then, once you know the outcome, you’ll have time to decide how to ease the burden of a tax bill or the best use for a tax refund.

 

Income Tax Preparation in Newton MAYou owe the Taxman!

Taking the worst-case scenario first, finding that you owe the IRS. First off, don’t panic even if the amount is beyond your ability to pay within the 10 days allotted after the IRS has made the assessment of what you owe. You need to be proactive in finding a solution while protecting your assets. No one will come to arrest you, but you will begin to get threatening notices before you’ll be contacted by a revenue officer. Quick action will help prevent the harassment and additional penalties and interest.

 

The first question to ask is whether you actually owe the money. A simple mathematical error can mean the difference between a refund and a tax bill. Thoroughly review the forms you filed for discrepancies. Better yet, pay a professional tax preparer to go over your returns again. If you discover that you definitely owe the IRS, you have multiple options to repay. Some will reduce the net amount owed; others will increase your overall payout.

 

An installment plan is the option used by taxpayers who owe less than $25,000. Fill out IRS Form 9465, a straight forward, form used to request a monthly payment plan. Provide the total amount you owe, how much you are able to apply to the tax bill right now and the amount you can pay each month. The IRS then can adjust the agreement or offer other arrangements.

 

Other options for taxpayers who owe money include account receivable and bank levies, wage garnishment, penalty abatement and what’s called an ‘offer in compromise’ which lowers the amount owed. However you decide to address your obligation to the IRS, the sooner you pay it off, the less you’ll pay in interest and penalties.

 

Tax RefundWhoopee! A Refund!

While celebrating may be overkill, taxpayers who are getting a tax refund can breathe a sigh of relief for dodging a tax bill. They now have an opportunity to make wise use of a tax windfall.

  • Invest/Save: One of the most fiscally responsible uses would be to deposit it into a 401k or other investment fund that earns interest.
  • Pay off Debt: While increasing your investment accounts has obvious benefits, the decision to pay down debt is a stress reliever for anyone who carries a balance. Lower debt has the potential to move your credit score in a positive direction making future borrowing easier.

 

Experiencing less stress during tax season comes when you pursue excellent financial management all year long. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by consistently burning the midnight oil and sacrificing entire weekends to work. Focus on balancing work and your private life. Set financial goals and celebrate milestones.

 

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Tax Time-Who Should Do Your Taxes?

Income Tax 1040Your payroll forms and stock records start to arrive in the mail and you begin to swear you’ll soon gather up all those receipts. Tax Day looms. Who’ll help file your 2015 return?

Every U.S. citizen living and working in this country or abroad must determine the federal income taxes he or she owes, as well as taxes owed to individual states or other local authorities. The deadline to pay those taxes for yearly salary earners falls on April 15 of most years, including 2016. If you pay taxes quarterly, you face deadlines in April, June, September and January.

Whichever category you find yourself in year to year, you must choose how to file a tax return before the deadline, as well as which filing status you qualify for. Generally, your choices for filing status are:

  • Single or head of household, meaning you detail on tax forms only your income, deductions and tax breaks.
  • Married filing jointly, meaning you and your spouse report your combined income and deduct your combined allowable expenses.
  • Married filing separately, which absolves each of you for the other’s possible unintentional omissions or deliberate errors.

Because some filing statuses can be more advantageous for you than others, determine the filing path that best suits your personal and financial situation.

Next, decide who if anyone will help prepare and file your return. The average fee nationwide for preparing a tax return, including an itemized Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 with Schedule A (for itemized deductions) and a state tax return, is $273 this year, according to a survey by the National Society of Accountants.

Using a certified public accountant or tax preparer is a common way to address your tax situation well before a deadline but many people continue to prepare and file federal tax returns themselves.

CPAs versus tax preparers. Even though CPAs and tax preparers may have significant experience in completing and processing tax forms, there are differences between each type of professional.

CPAs, for example, must undergo rigorous education and certification to become experts in many areas outside of tax preparation, such as accounting matters or other financial services. While you may very well pay more for the services of a CPA than for a non-CPA tax preparer such as an enrolled agent or a registered tax return preparer, the additional cost generally covers the expertise to analyze complex tax situations.

If you believe your tax situation is relatively straightforward and simple, choosing a tax preparer might be a more cost-efficient method to file. Another advantage: These professionals offer you a degree of protection. If one of these professionals makes a clear error or miscalculation on your return, the IRS often holds the preparer accountable before penalizing you.

Remember: Booking a professional preparer becomes harder the closer we get to the filing deadline.

 

Filing yourself. Individual or self-filing can be an option if you want to save money on hiring a CPA or preparer and especially if you’re experienced with tax filing. If you make less than $62,000 a year, you can find free forms and other tools on the IRS Free File page.

Several national tax chains, local and national organizations, and even makers of tax software offer free or low-cost preparation services both in-person and online. Online services allow you to enter employment information that generates the necessary documentation needed to file both state and federal income taxes.

Among those that charge a fee, these alternatives generally cost $12 to $25, depending on the complexity of your return. While these services may be cost-efficient and user-friendly, you do risk incorrectly inputting data or taking an inappropriate deduction.

Complexity of your employment often dictates the best option. For example, if you hold a long-time job with the same company or organization and take a few standard deductions, you might simply go with a preparer or an online, self-filing service. If you changed jobs more than twice in a year or are an independent contractor, you probably ought to consult a CPA or other experienced preparer.

 

Either way, start your preparing long before the tax deadline.