An Oakland Calfornia based Tax Return Preparation Firm - Company Message
We are not big fans of tax organizers used by many tax preparation firms.
We prefer to work off the actual documents that you get, such as W-2, 1099's, etc. For you to list these on a piece of paper seems redundant to us and is somewhat of a relic from the days of doing taxes by hand.
However, there are some good things in them as they give you a guideline as to what you should be looking for and what we as tax preparers need to complete your return.
If you would like us to send you a organizer in a pdf file, just email us and request it.
We have four, six and eight page forms? We can send all three or if you think you just need a basic organizer, the four page will work. If you have a more complicated return, the eight page might be better. The better organized you are, the less chance you have of overpaying your taxes.
Basic Information:
Names, SS#'s and dates of birth of all family members that will be on the return.
Dependent information, this is important for establishing Head of Household, getting the exemption for the dependent and the child credit if eligible (16 or under and family income does not exceed limits)
Any changes, marriage, divorce, did you pay any tuition for a dependent, was there child care that you paid for? Did you get the $5,000 from your employer for child care? If so you need to report that you spent it.
Contact information, phone numbers and email.
Estimated Taxes ... if you made estimated payments for your taxes (federal and state) we need to know the amount and the date you paid them. Also, if you are new to us, we will need to know if you applied any of your last year's refund to this year's taxes.
Wages  all W-2's, for most this is easy,only one a year, but with the current economic situation, many will have more than one. Make sure you report them all. If you don't you will have to do an amendment which will cost you extra. In addition, if you don't catch it in time, two things can happen, both bad. One you will not get the extra refund that you are entitled to and two, if you owe and the IRS catches it you may owe a penalty and will owe interest in addition to the tax due. This applies to all unreported documents, not just wages.
Pension and IRA information. Did you receive a pension or take money from your IRA or 401K? If so you will have to report it.
Did you contribute to an IRA, then we need to report that as it might be deductible.
Did you sell any stock, mutual funds or other investments. If so, they have to be reported and your broker's 1099 should provide the sale information. However, often you have to provide the date you bought it and how much you paid for it. Keep in mind that reinvested dividends have already been taxed.
Interest Income/Dividend Income .. provide the 1099's for this. Again, your broker's1099 will provide much of this data. Your bank will provide the interest they paid.Did you have an private loans? If so, the interest must be reported.
Partnerships/Corporations/Trusts  If you have any of these, you should receive a K-1 reporting the activity for the entity. It could be either income or loss.
Other income. Common items here are gambling winnings, alimony, unemployment compensation, scholarships/fellowships, hobby income.
Itemized Deductions   There are many of these, but the categories are
Medical .. includes Doctor fees, prescriptions, eyeglasses, hearing aids, insurance premiums and a mileage allowance (per mile) for trips to the Doctors or Pharmacy.
Taxes  State and local sales taxes, real estate taxes, personal property taxes, other taxes
Interest  Home mortgage interest, first and seconds. If you refinanced did you pay any points, if so they can be amortized over the life of the loan. If you just purchased the points can be deducted in the year of purchase. Form 1098 has this information on it.  There are limits on the deduction of certain interest on homes. If you have a HELOC of more than $100K or have refinanced for more than the house cost you, you should let us know.
Did you have any investment interest. Usually this is on a margin account with a broker. It can be deducted to the extent that you have investment income.
Charitable Giving  .. there are two categories.
      Cash, you must have a receipt or bank records for the donation.
      Non Cash, this is the Goodwill/Salvation Army type donation. If the amount that you gave is less than $500, you do not have to provide much information, just make sure you have a receipt for the donation.
If over $500 then you have to provide the name/address and date of the contribution as well as the date you purchased the goods and how much you paid. Then you note the current value and indicate how you arrived at the value (owner estimate or thrift shop values) for some value ideas on this go to the website for the salvation army as they have a list you can use
Auto Donations   these are quite common, but the rules have changed, the charity is to provide you with the amount that they sold the car for .. you can no longer just take blue book for them. There is one exception to this, the charity has to use the vehicle in their operations. For example, you donate a van and the charity uses that van to take homeless people to a shelter.
Casualty and Theft losses  these have to be substantial, in excess of 10% of your income to be useful
Unreimbursed Employee Expenses  if you work for an employer and you incur expenses for that employer and don't get reimbursed for them, you can take a deduction for them.
Vehicle usage is one area. You need to provide the information required for a business (see below). Often people will get a car allowance. The expenses will be offset by this. It is not uncommon for people to get reimbursed for say 40 cents a mile when the IRS allows closer to 60 cents per mile. The excess is eligible for itemizing on schedule A, subject to the 2% of income limitation. Normally a form 2106 is required for this.
Other expense items ... travel expenses (exclude meals), meals and entertainment (see below for record keeping needs), communications (telephone/internet/postage, etc), professional dues/subscriptions, Office in Home (must be required),  union dues, tools and equipment, safety and protective clothing, uniform costs, job seeking costs, etc.
Other Expenses are Investment expenses, tax preparation fees, safe deposit rentals, gambling losses to the extent that you have winnings.
Business or rental property   the income for this is reported as well as the expenses. You should have the expenses by category. People all do this a bit differently, but try to keep the categories sensible. Depreciation is one complicated issue here. You need to provide the asset that you purchased with the date of purchase and the amount. The amount of depreciation depends on the asset.
Remember if you are taking a deduction for meals and entertainment you only get 50% of them as a deduction. You must keep a receipt that includes the following information: The date, the place, the person(s) you fed or entertained, the business purpose of the meal/show. Be careful with this area, the IRS can disallow these if you don't have good records.
Auto information and expenses   You need to provide the make and year for any vehicles and the date they were put into service..
You can take either the actual expense or a standard deduction which is an amount per mile and changes almost every year. Rule of thumb is if you have a less expensive car that does not need a lot of repairs, you use the standard. If you have an expensive car, use actual (esp if a new car). Expenses include insurance, upkeep, repairs, gas/oil, registration fees,and any parking or toll fees.
You need to provide the total mileage that each vehicle was driven, the total business miles it was driven and the total commuting mileage (if any).
You need to answer the following questions:
     Is another car available for use
     Do you have evidence to support your mileage information reported
     If yes, is the evidence written in a log or other place .. this is a key item should you get audited .. no log, no deduction. You can keep the log on an excel spreadsheet, show beginning and ending odometer readings. You could also keep on a calender or other written document.
Business Use of Home   If you use your home for business purposes (home office) you can take a deduction for this. You need to provide the total square footage of the house and the square footage of the area used regularly for business.
Expense items are insurance, repairs, rent (if you don't own), mortgage interest (if you do own), property taxes, repairs and maintenance, utilities and you take depreciation on the home (if owned). We will need the purchase price of your home, the date purchased and the date you started using it for a home office.
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