Tax Professionals Can Save You Time and Money on Your Taxes
- Everyone has to file their taxes, so it's important to file them correctly to avoid costly mistakes.
- An experienced tax agent can help you with the tax planning and tax filing process.
- Tax planning isn't for everyone. Find out if it is right for you, and if so, make a plan to talk to an experienced tax agent.
Tax season is incredibly stressful for many people. Fortunately, there are professionals who can make it easier. However, knowing who or where to find the proper tax professional can be confusing for the average individual.
Before you file your taxes, you may be wondering who exactly should you call to help you file your taxes. Should you contact an accountant, a CPA, a tax filer, a tax professional, or a tax planner? Of course, most of these names overlap, but it is crucial to know the differences.
So, what is the difference between tax filing and tax planning, and what roles do professionals play in each? Keep reading to find out.
Tax filing is the most basic thing you do during tax season. When you file your taxes, you declare what your income is to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But, of course, it is much more complicated than that since it includes deductions, credits, exclusions, exemptions, dependents, and forms that you can't understand.
Even though it is complex, no special training is needed to file a return. Anyone can file their taxes by filling out the IRS forms on their own or using software to guide them through it. However, this isn't necessarily recommended if you are trying to maximize your return or minimize your liability.
There are tax professionals who specifically file taxes on other people's behalf to ensure you are filing your taxes correctly. In addition, these people are trained to know about the various ways to file your taxes for maximum benefit.
Of course, not every tax professional is created equal. There are levels of professionals.
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General Tax Professional
A regular tax professional can be anyone who takes a relatively quick training course. These are the people you see in pop-up tax preparation shops or even people who work for big-name tax filing companies.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Next up is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA is trained in accounting, so they do a lot of different jobs, but part of becoming a CPA is tax training. Since a CPA has specific training and experience, it allows them to prepare your taxes better than the average tax preparer.
Some accountants specialize in taxes only or a specific area of taxes, such as for a business owner. Finding an accountant specializing in your tax situation is the golden goose of tax filing because you will likely maximize your tax benefit by using one of these professionals.
However, there is only so much your accountant can do come tax time. So, that's where tax planning comes in.
While tax filing is reactive, tax planning is proactive. Of course, everyone has to file their taxes. However, if tax season comes as a surprise and you're scrambling to gather everything your accountant needs, you need to consider tax planning.
Tax planning is not just a one-time per year drive-thru filing. Instead, tax planning is a process of making decisions that will maximize your tax benefits throughout the year.
The most important thing you can do is keep accurate records of your financial information. Most of what your accountant is doing during tax season is trying to figure out what you did for the rest of the tax year. Keeping accurate records will make that job easier and allow them to spend more time optimizing their taxes.
The best time to do your first tax planning session is in May or June because that is when the mad tax rush is over. It might cost you some extra money to have a tax planning session, but it will be worth the money and save you a headache in the long run.
During these sessions, your accountant will be able to tell you a few critical things regarding your taxes, such as:
- What kinds of records to keep
- Actions you can take to qualify for certain credits
- Ways of classifying income that will reduce your taxes
- How much to contribute to retirement accounts to stay in a lower tax bracket
A 30-minute yearly (or bi-annual) session planning with your accountant can go a long way regarding your financial health.
If you get a tax return every year with minimal effort, you might not need to do tax planning. For example, if you are single with a 9-5 job and no complicated investments, tax filing is all you need.
Example of Filing vs. Planning
Choosing Tax Filing
Let's consider the scenario of a college student working a part-time job while trying to get a bachelor's degree. College students are generally strapped for cash, so they often decide to file their taxes using free software. But unfortunately, if they file their taxes wrong, they could end up owing taxes.
For college students with the intricacies of student loans, scholarships, various student credits, and being a dependent or not, having a professional file your taxes is worth it.
Choosing Tax Planning
On the other hand, let's say someone the same age as the student is instead working as a freelance designer, and the designer is running a small business with multiple clients. When tax time comes, they have a whopping 30% tax bill they didn't expect.
In this situation, tax planning would be beneficial because there are so many deductions and strategies to reduce your tax bill. This is because a freelancer doesn't have an employer paying most of their taxes and withholding taxes for them.
If taxes are a stressful time of year for you, you might want to consider tax planning to prepare yourself in advance of tax season. In addition, tax planning can help you prepare for tax season throughout the year to maximize your return and minimize your tax liability.
Do you call your CPA more than once per year? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
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