It’s one of the most hectic times of the year for Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Lee Mandel, and he knows that from now until the April 15 deadline for filing taxes, it’s just going to get busier.
“People like me get pretty hammered and I see about 14 people a day. I have people mail in information and we do on the phone calls,” said Mandel.
But there are ways to make the process smoother on both ends, it just takes a bit of advanced preparation.
“Basically anything that affects your life in a tax perspective, throw it in an envelope, don’t think about it just get a receipt. For medical, put it in an envelope and deal with it later, but don’t wait to try to get the data because the information may not be available,” said Mandel.
CPA Varsha Pancholi encourages her clients to stay up to date with what’s going on with Illinois legislation.
“Be aware of at least the basic rules and laws throughout the year so when you’re making small decisions, see how they impact your taxes,” said Pancholi.
For this year, it’s a federal law that’s making an impact, with the Affordable Care Act requiring all to have health insurance. Those who don’t will be charged $95 per month or one percent of their wages, depending on which is higher.
“It’s a pretty good formula so if you do go see a practitioner make sure you know when you’ve had health insurance, how much you’ve paid for it, if you’ve had subsidy for it, and that will help the practitioner do the form as well,” said Mandel.
You also want to keep track of things you’ve donated throughout the year. Be sure to have those receipts on hand just in case you are audited, to help avoid any penalties.
For some, part of the process is making sure you distribute the right paperwork.
“If you have rental property or business as individuals, you want to make sure that if you’re paying any individual more than $600 then you issue them a 1099 miscellaneous, or a 1099 whatever it is that is the right one for them,” said Pancholi.
Once you have all your documents in order, you have a choice in how to file your taxes: You can hire a professional CPA and pay between $200 and $400, use a software such as Intuit TurboTax which could run you anywhere between $20 and $90, and those who make $60,000 or less may qualify for Free File on the IRS website.
If you do choose to do it yourself, be sure all the information is completely accurate or you may face consequences.
“If you’re not knowledgeable of the things that are required it will not be correct and you might either lose money because you have not done something right and actually overpaid the government, or you might have a deficit and you will pay penalties,” said Pancholi.
And don’t be surprised if there is a delay in your tax return. Typically, it takes about three weeks to receive them, but with the IRS budget cuts and lower staff it may take a little longer.
Naperville also has some free programs for certain groups in need of tax assistance.
Low-income families and individuals who make $53,000 dollars or less can receive help with completing their federal and state tax returns through volunteer income tax assistance.
It’s the 18th year for this program that will be held at the Nichols Library.
Participants need to bring all documentation, including proof of health care coverage. Assistance will be available on February 28 and March 7, 21, and 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. Help is given first come, first serve.
And seniors can also receive free help through the Naperville Park District. Volunteer tax preparers in the AARP Tax Aide Program are providing their services by appointment at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center from now until April 8.
For more information on this program, check out NapervilleParks.org.
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