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What should I be bringing to my CPA?
This is one of the most common questions asked when tax season rolls around. After processing over 250 returns this season we decided to put together this list of do’s & don’ts.
Whether I am your CPA, you’re working with someone else, or if you’re doing your taxes yourself, here are some helpful tips geared to making all of our lives a bit easier this year.
If you are a first-time client or a returning client with me, you will receive what we call a Client Tax Organizer. Inside of this green packet, I have attached a letter of instruction and a data organizer designed specifically to help both you and I make your tax return as accurate as possible. This checklist will help you gather the specific documents you need to mail in or bring to your appointment.
As you look through your organizer, try not to get overwhelmed with filling in the blanks. Instead, try focusing on inserting the documents into the Organizer according to each section.
- It is proformaed to “remind” you of things you had the prior year that you should have in the current year. Things do change, accounts get closed, opened, jobs change, etc., but seeing that Chase Interest from 2016 may remind you of that small savings account that is now larger because of a big deposit and now has some tax implication….
- If there is a government document for an item, W-2, 1099, 1098, Brokerage Statement, etc., you do not have to fill out the forms/boxes within the Organizer. For example, in the Wages and Salaries section, just insert your W-2 forms for the year.
- Please provide all pages of original government documents, especially all the pages of your composite 1099 from your brokerage account.
- If you are concerned about losing your originals in the mail, use certified mail or tracking. And of course you can always bring your documents into our Walnut Creek office.
- If making copies, please keep your copies and send us the originals; they are easier to read, won’t have missing parts, etc. In almost 30 years of practice we have NEVER lost anyone’s original documents.
- If your return happens to contain information from K-1s from partnerships, trusts, or other passive activities, which always arrive late, and you’re waiting to receive them, don’t cancel or reschedule your appointment with me or delay sending in your other information; just provide me with what you have and we can add those documents later when they come in.
- On your appointment day (or in your mailed in packet) we want you to come in with your Organizer and as much of your paperwork as possible in some semblance of the order that is in the workbook.
- PLEASE remove paperwork from the envelope it came in
As far as Supporting Documents, we want to make sure that there’s no confusion or extra work related to unnecessary paperwork. Besides the obvious W-2 forms, 1099s,
- We do need to see things like
- 1098 for your Mortgage,
- Property Tax Bills (remember CA straddles years so bring both bills that mention the current tax year i.e. 2015-2016 & 2016-2017),
- DMV Statements (only some of that payment is deductible),
- Receipts for ALL Non-Cash Charitable Donations (see our blog on Charitable Contributions) -- including a description of what was donated and either original cost or donation value,
- Closing Statements (Escrow) for any properties purchased or refinanced,
- We don’t audit, but we do have a responsibility as your preparer, to know you have the required support to prove your deductions.
- See the next section for what we don’t need to see/review
Having said you don’t need to fill in the various forms and boxes, there are a few exceptions;
- Please review the questions at the beginning of the organizer; things change from year to year and you may not remember in February 2017 an event that happened in January of 2016 that effects your taxes or worse you think it doesn’t and don’t mention it and then you get a letter from IRS because it wasn’t on your return!
The Itemized Deduction Section
- While these items may be less significant transactions, and we acknowledge that these are important expenses to you, we don’t necessarily need to see all of your receipts.
- For example, receipts for anything regarding your Medical Expenses; we don’t want to see and especially don’t want to spend your money paying for our time to add up a bunch of receipts for co-pays, etc. Please total them by category and provide a spreadsheet or complete the appropriate organizer page.
- Your completion of the organizer page confirms that you have your receipts for these deductions
- For Cash contributions, we will list the larger donations to your church or other significant contributions but if you do $25 - $100+ to a lot of organizations, please add them up as “Receipted Organized Charities”.
Rental Property Income and Expenses
- should be filled out by hand in your Organizer or if you have some sort of spreadsheet to keep track of your Rental Income, you can insert that into your Organizer instead of filling out the Rent and Royalty Property page.
- It is your responsibility to keep track of expenses and the appropriate backup
- Things like mileage should not be “same as last year” but need actual documentation.
- If you have questions as to what constitutes appropriate backup, whether you should invest in QuickBooks, etc., please call the office and we’ll discuss your individual situation.
Lastly, I do mention this in the letter in each Organizer, but to keep this process as efficient as possible (we do hundreds of returns in a small 8-10 week window), my staff and I ask that as you assemble your documents, keep in mind that paper clips are better friends to us than staples.
- We use scanners to save everything electronically and removing staples rip papers.
- If you need to make notes, white or traditional light yellow sticky notes can be read by scanners but hot pink and dark or vibrant colors, while eye catching, scan as a black blob.
- And finally and unfortunately, no scanners or copiers like highlighters! Anything highlighted regardless of color used, is unreadable (blacked out) so please take advantage of the use of arrows, margins, or even a separate page of notes.
- Consider saving yourself some time; we know what numbers to pick up, totals, account numbers, etc., and most highlighting is not necessary.
- If you feel you must bring something to our attention, circle in red but again be sure not to obliterate any numbers, words, etc.
I hope reading these tips helped clear any question marks floating around your head. Our Tax Organizer is a tried and true tool to help you “organize” your tax information. We want to make sure that we have all of your most necessary data to prepare your return in an efficient and cost effective manner. Thank you.
Last Updated by Admin on 2017-07-13 06:07:18 PM