How does the tax preparation process work at Buenger Accounting?
For a new client, we ask that you come in for an in-person appointment so that we can accurately get your information and find out what your needs and concerns are. If you are unable to come in person, we can work over the phone or internet if necessary.
For existing clients, we offer a drop-off service where you can leave your paperwork at the desk and no appointment is necessary unless you feel the need for one.
What do I need to bring to a tax appointment?
We will need copies of all relevant tax documents including forms w-2, 1099, 1095-A, K-1, 1098 and anything else that you received in the mail in January or February marked “Important tax document”. We also require some form of identification (driver’s license is fine). For new clients, a copy of the prior year tax return is very helpful. For businesses and rentals, we will need income and expense statements for the entire tax year in any form that you can provide. We have organizers available if you need help getting things together.
The most important thing for you to bring is your questions. We have over 50 years of experience and access to a large database of tax research, so we need to know your questions (and there’s no such things as a stupid tax question) in order to help you.
What if I can’t find my information?
There are two ways of recovering lost tax forms- contact your employer or other agency for a replacement or contact the IRS for a tax transcript. Tax transcripts aren’t generally available until late summer, so the first option is the quicker one.
How can I work virtually with you if I can’t come into the office?
Buenger Accounting has a secure online portal that you can download any tax documents into. Just let us know and we can set you up. We also accept faxes and emailed documents, though we encourage clients to use password protection whenever possible. All tax documents that we send out are password protected.
Our office on Pontoon Road also has a mail slot in the front door that clients can use after hours, and we use a 24-hour security service to protect all documents in our building.
When can I get my return and information back from you?
We try to get all returns done in a reasonable amount of time, which is usually just a few days, but on occasion that can be longer for complicated returns or during extremely busy periods. All returns are checked by a second person to catch errors, and everybody gets a full copy of the return for their records as well as all of their original forms back. (It is recommended to save your copies for a minimum of three years after the due date.) We will call you when the return is ready for pickup, so make sure that we have a good phone number for you each year. You can then return to our office, pay our fee, and sign all required forms so that we can send your return that day.
What are your fees?
We don’t publish our fees publicly, but they are very competitive for our area and available if you come in or call. They are determined by the complexity of each tax return, and the number of forms and hours required to process it.
Are you available year-round for support if I have questions or get a letter from the IRS?
Yes, we are open all year long, though our hours during the off-season are reduced. We stand behind our work and will answer questions and help with notices and letters at no extra charge in most cases. If the notice requires new or corrected forms to be filed, there could be some extra fees on our part.
How do I file a tax return?
There are two options- paper forms that can be filled out by hand and mailed, or electronic filing can be done by a computer. The IRS strongly discourages paper filing, and these types of returns can be delayed by months because of the manpower involved in processing them. Electronic filing is the most common way of filing income tax returns today, and many tax software programs are available to assist with this.
How does electronic filing work?
Your personal information will need to be entered into a software program. Then you must add all types of income (wages, investments, self-employment, unemployment, pension etc) into the proper area where it will be coded and processed correctly. There are several tax deductions and tax credits that you can then optionally claim by answering the proper questions and entering the information. Finally, you complete and sign the return and it is sent electronically to the IRS, (and the appropriate states) where it can be processed quickly. If due a refund, you can often get it within one or two weeks.
When do I need a paid preparer?
Hiring a paid tax preparer is an individual choice that depends on your own expertise and comfort with the tax forms and software. Mistakes can be costly, and the laws change frequently, so many look to paid preparers to help them file their returns. If you have a simple return with only one w-2, you can usually file the return yourself for free or at lower cost through online programs like Turbo-Tax.
But if you have a business, rental, multi-state return, or complicated family situation, finding a competent tax preparer could save you both time and money, especially in the long run. Most tax preparers take classes during the year that cover the most important tax law changes. They can also advise you on tax strategy going forward as your situation evolves.
Are paid preparers required to be licensed?
No. Almost anyone can be a paid preparer if they register with the IRS. There are currently no educational or training requirements in the tax preparation field, though congress is looking at changing that. But there are designations that prove expertise in tax, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent (EA), and these professionals are subject to educational and ethical requirements. Be sure to check out any paid preparer you are considering working with and ask them about their background and training.
When are taxes due?
There are two answers. Tax returns are generally due on April 15th of each year, although 6-month extensions are available. Tax payments, on the other hand are due all year long, which is why your employers withhold taxes on your behalf. Self-employed individuals need to be aware of this. Not paying as you earn could result in tax penalties at tax time.
What happens if I’m late in filing or don’t file at all?
After April 15th, the IRS begins the clock on failure to file penalties and failure to pay penalties, as well as interest on the amount not paid. (If you are due a refund, those penalties don’t apply- in fact you could get some interest added to your refund.) Filing late results in penalties if you owe tax. Not filing at all could result in substantial penalties, and the IRS has up to three years after the deadline to find you and assess tax and penalties. If you’re due a refund and don’t file, you have three years to claim it, and after that time passes the refund goes away.