Between gathering all your tax forms and trying to make sense of all these new tax laws and waking up in the middle of the night wondering if you filed your taxes correctly, it’s no wonder most folks are stressed about tax season.
That’s probably why more than 80 million tax returns were filed with help from a tax professional during the 2019 tax season.1
More than 80 million tax returns were filed with help from a tax professional during the 2019 tax season.
If you have a tax advisor that you turn to year after year to help file your taxes, that’s great! But there’s a good chance you’re not taking full advantage of the wealth of knowledge and expertise they have to offer.
"Those that lean on us throughout the year—whether it be by email, phone or meeting in person, depending on the depth of their questions—will create an opportunity to position themselves better for the current year as well as future years," says Chad M., an Endorsed Local Provider (ELP).
Here are some questions you might want to ask your tax pro during tax season and beyond.
1. What Does Your Tax Preparation Process Look Like?
This is where you and your tax pro get on the same page about how you both want to communicate throughout the tax-filing process. Are you more comfortable setting up a meeting or two and doing everything in person or would you rather communicate completely through email? Maybe setting up phone calls works for the two of you.
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However you want the tax preparation process to look, it’s important to set those expectations from the get-go and find an advisor who will work with your schedule and preferences.
2. How Can You Help Me With My Tax Goals?
Do you want to make sure your taxes are done right so the IRS doesn’t come knocking on your door? Do you want to figure out whether or not to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions?
Share your goals and tax worries with your tax pro and ask how they plan to walk you through the tax-filing process. Knowing how your tax pro works and having them share their process with you can help get rid of some of your deepest, darkest fears when it comes to tax season!
3. What Information Will You Need From Me to File My Taxes?
Giving your tax advisor a clear picture of your finances will help them file your tax return accurately and help them quickly identify ways to save you money.
Your tax advisor will probably ask you to be prepared to share the following information with them:
- Identification information for you and your dependents. That means having Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) with dates of birth for anyone who’ll be on your tax return. This way, your tax advisor can verify who you are, and the IRS won’t send back a tax return because the numbers don’t match (it happens a lot).
- A copy of your most recent tax return. Although things can change from year to year, having a copy of last year’s return can give your tax advisor an idea of what deductions and tax credits you qualify for and save you both some time in the process.
- Income statements and tax forms. Once you gather your W-2 from your employer or all those 1099 forms (if you’re a freelancer or independent contractor), your tax advisor will need copies of those tax forms in order to file your taxes.
- Proof of expenses. If you plan to itemize your deductions this year instead of taking the standard deduction, you’ll need to have documents on hand to prove those expenses. Hope you saved your receipts!
To make sure you have everything you need to file your taxes, you can also download our free tax preparation checklist.
4. What Can I Do Differently to Improve My Tax Situation?
If your tax return was a target, the bullseye would be $0. You don’t want a giant tax bill—that means you didn’t have enough money taken out of your paycheck for taxes. And that huge tax refund? That’s not free money—it’s your money, which you’ve been loaning too much of to the government throughout the year (with no interest, by the way).
Great tax professionals won’t just help you file your taxes, collect their fee, and then disappear. They’ll be there after you file to answer your questions about your tax situation. Not only that, they can show you how to adjust your tax withholdings and get closer to that sweet spot where you’re paying almost exactly what you owe to Uncle Sam—no more and no less.
And this goes beyond just your withholdings! Your tax pro can suggest making some tweaks in different areas of your finances. They can walk you through how your investments are taxed, the tax implications of buying or selling a home, or when it’s a good time to incorporate your side hustle into a small business.
5. Based on My Situation, What Other Things Should I Try and Do This Year?
Like Ferris Bueller once said, “Life comes at you fast.” And if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss out on some big tax breaks or adjustments you need to make during any given tax year.
Did you get married, have a baby, or buy a house in the past year? Those are just a few major life changes that can change your tax situation—and your tax pro can help you understand what those changes mean for you.
And beyond taxes, your tax pro could also suggest taking steps to help protect your assets or help you make more progress on your financial goals for the rest of the year. Maybe you need to get term life insurance once you get hitched or set up a trust to protect your estate. Your tax pro can provide some really valuable insight into those areas!
6. Can I Call You Throughout the Year for Tax Advice?
Would you rather work with some Joe Schmo who just files tax returns during tax season and then vanishes into thin air the rest of the year, or a tax pro who will actually be there to answer your call in September when you have a question about a decision that might impact your taxes for the year?
That’s a pretty easy choice!
"I am of the strong belief that tax advisors are far more valuable from April 16 to December 31 than we ever will be from January 1 to April 15,” Chad says. “That’s because a tax return is historical. There are very few things that taxpayers can do after the ball drops on New Year’s to change the prior year."
7. How Will My Side Hustle Affect My Taxes?
Whether you followed Dave’s advice and started delivering pizzas to pay off debt faster or turned your hobby into a thriving small business, it’s very possible that your side hustle might complicate the way you do your taxes.
If you’re one of the millions of freelancers, independent contractors and small business owners around the country, you probably have to deal with different kinds of tax forms than a typical employee. Not only that, but you might have to pay quarterly taxes and the self-employment tax on any income you make from your side hustle.
Your tax pro can sit down and work with you and guide you through what you can expect during tax season so you’re not blindsided when you file your taxes.
8. What Other Services Do You Offer?
Believe it or not, your tax professional might be able to help you do a lot more than just file your tax returns.
For example, if your tax advisor is a certified public accountant (CPA), they can provide you with a wide range of services. From bookkeepers to payroll administrators, CPAs can wear a bunch of different hats on your behalf—especially if you’re a small business owner. These guys and gals are basically the swiss army knives of the tax-planning world!
There are other certifications and letters you might see behind the name of your tax advisor (like “CFP” for certified financial planner or “EA” for enrolled agent), so take the time to ask your pro what his or her credentials are, and what services they can offer you both during and after tax season.
Find a Tax Pro
Don’t have a tax pro in your corner yet? Or maybe you’re looking to work with someone new this tax season? We’ve got you covered!
Our tax ELPs are ready to answer any questions you have about your taxes. They take the time to get to know you and your financial situation so they can help you file your taxes with confidence.