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Financial Planning
Jan 2024

5 Ways to Work Effectively With Your Tax Preparer

By Kay Oh

Most major life events will come with tax implications. While people often rely on their accountant’s expertise for preparing and filing their tax returns, working more collaboratively with your tax professional can often maximize your tax savings. Here are my 5 tips to consider when working with your tax preparer:

1) Find the Right Tax Preparer

Enrolled Agents and CPA’s are both licensed tax professionals qualified to prepare and file tax returns for businesses, trusts, and individuals; however each have different levels of skills, education, and expertise. Do you just have a couple of W2 forms to sort through, or are you bogged down by K-1s, 1099s, and various other tax reporting documentation? It can often be most helpful to align your tax preparer’s level of expertise with your level of tax-complexity.

Enrolled Agents are federally licensed practitioners trained in finding deductions and credits and ensuring tax compliance with IRS tax code. If your situation is straightforward, you may find cost savings using an Enrolled Agent. If your situation is more textured, then you may benefit from working with a CPA. A CPA’s additional education and training allows them to provide and consult on a wider scope of professional services such as accounting, auditing, and financial reporting.

If you choose to work with a CPA, it’s important to remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all option. There are different sized firms, each bringing together a different sized team with varying expertise. A small firm is often great place to start for middle to high net worth individuals and business owners. It’s also important to find a good personality fit. If you’re hesitant to reach out to your tax preparer because you don’t feel like you can connect with them, then you may miss out on opportunities to save more.

2) Communicate

Transitions and transactions are good reasons to loop in your tax preparer. Changing jobs? Selling a house? Cashing in on some employee stock options? Notifying your tax preparer before big moves allows them to set up your transactions in the most beneficial way for reporting purposes and tax ramifications. Re-doing decisions once agreements are reached can be challenging, if not, impossible.

For example, a tax professional can explain whether or not you would benefit from a Roth conversion during a low income year or discuss how rolling over an IRA can affect your tax liability. They can also advise businesses on the best year to purchase equipment to reduce their taxable burden or leverage their extensive network to connect you with someone you can partner with.

Keeping your accountant in the loop for big changes will empower your accountant to do what you hired them to do: minimize your tax liability and address your business concerns.

3) Stay Organized

A big part of being organized during tax time means knowing where to find statements. When your accountant requests information from you, it is best to respond promptly to their inquiries and provide clear copies of the information requested. This means legible responses on your accountant’s tax organizing worksheet and avoiding low quality smartphone-made pictures of documentation. It’s also easier for accountants to track and receive your tax documents all at once rather than piece-meal.

Something else to consider is that keeping all tax documents digitally organized and accurately summarized in digital tools (i.e. Quickbooks) can go a long way in preventing manual errors and minimizing billing costs. Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant for one-on-one training when setting up and utilizing these tools. If you or your business provides information with significant bookkeeping flaws, the errors and omissions will divert the attention from your taxes and finances to filling in the gaps in information, which ultimately slows the turnaround time on your tax return and potentially reduces your bottom line.

4) Schedule a Tax Planning Meeting

It’s always better to be surprised on birthdays and holidays, as opposed to at tax time. Consider being proactive with your tax preparer by scheduling a planning meeting during their slow season, even if you don’t think you need one. A tax-planning meeting may help you uncover an opportunity or a problem area that deserves action. A few good questions you might consider asking are:

  • Am I missing any tax saving opportunities?
  • What do I need to think about before I do …?
  • What changes have your other clients made that paid off in the long run?
  • Are there any tax law changes this year or in the near future that might impact my tax filing?
  • How often should we be in touch?

Business Owners:

    • Is there anything that jumps out at you when you think about ways I can reduce my tax burden?
    • What are some considerations I should be thinking about for my industry in particular?
    • Can you help me better understand my cash flow?
    • Is …. a good investment for me to make from a tax standpoint?


5) Leverage your Financial Advisor

For high net worth individuals, tax preparation is a year-round effort, and a team sport. Your accountant will know the techniques to catch certain deductions and low-hanging fruit during tax time, but they may not know about your broader financial picture. Perhaps you are anticipating a windfall from selling your home, or you are unwinding a bad business investment and want to offset a loss. A financial advisor can identify what may warrant further attention. Those who utilize a financial advisor alongside their accountant have the advantage of spotting planning opportunities, correctly implementing complex tax strategies, and avoiding costly mistakes sooner than those who don’t.

As we move into the heart of tax season, utilizing the above tips can help ensure you have a fruitful relationship with your tax preparer. You don’t have to know all the answers when it comes to your taxes, but it’s good to know when to ask for help and who you need to keep informed when you have a big change in your life. Taking the extra steps to focus on communication and organization can lead to additional tax and time savings.

The information provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as advice, including, but not limited to tax, legal, insurance, investment, or retirement advice. For your specific planning needs, please seek the advice of Integris Wealth Management, your tax accountant, attorney, insurance agent, or other professional as appropriate. Investing involves the risk of loss.

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