Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I hire a CPA over a non-licensed tax preparer?

By using a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, for your tax and accounting needs, you are getting the most value for your money. CPAs are the most respected accounting professionals and have completed rigorous requirements to earn their license. Before applying for a CPA license, an individual must first complete extensive educational requirements and then pass a comprehensive 14-hour exam. Once licensed, a CPA must complete 40 hours of professional education every year to maintain their license. Also, CPAs are monitored by State CPA Boards. These boards set professional and ethical standards that must be followed. Non-licensed practitioners are generally only self-monitored.

Do you guarantee income tax refunds?

NO and you should avoid anyone who does as there is no legal way to offer this “guarantee.” Your tax refund is a function of how much tax you paid during the year and how much tax you actually owe. If you are receiving a large tax refund every year, you are having too much withheld from your paychecks. Wouldn’t you rather have that money to use all through the year? I can help you adjust your tax withholdings so that you are only paying what you owe.

Do you charge for e-filing returns?

No. But there are additional charges for preparing paper returns.

Do you charge for filing extensions?

No. Please note: For Individual Returns Only – If you contact me within 2 weeks of the individual filing deadline, your return will be automatically extended. If my schedule allows, you will have the option of paying a late submission fee to have your return completed by the filing deadline. Corporate Returns will be automatically extended if information is not submitted at least 2 weeks prior to the filing deadline.

How long will it take to have my tax returns prepared and filed?

The time required to prepare and file your tax return will depend upon the complexity of the return and also the completeness of the documentation you provide. I work on a first come, first serve basis and try to maintain a 2 week turn-around time, but that is not guaranteed. I am a one-person firm and the wait may be longer during higher-volume periods. I am committed to providing the highest level of professional service to all of my clients. When you contact me, I will be able to provide an estimated completion date based on my schedule at that time. (Requests for expedited returns need to be submitted at least 2 weeks prior to the desired completion date. Additional fees may apply.)

What are some tips on collecting and organizing my tax documents?

The easiest way to ensure you don’t lose important documents is to designate a folder to current year tax documents. As you collect information that may be relevant to your tax return preparation through the year, just put them in the folder. Then when you’re ready to hand them over to your preparer, everything will be in one place. If you’d like to organize the documents even further, group them together by type. For example, clip all documents reporting income together; clip documents related to child care together; etc. (Tip: Target often sells plastic pocket binders in their dollar section that work great and last a long time!)

I’m self-employed. How do I know if an expense is deductible by my business?

The IRS advises that expenses are deductible by a business if they are “ordinary and necessary” for that business. “Ordinary” means that it is reasonable and expected that other businesses similar to yours would deduct the same expense. “Necessary” means that the expense is required to operate, sustain or grow your business. With small businesses, there are often expenses that have both personal and business elements. In those cases, only the portion of the expense that is attributable to your business is deductible. There can be a lot of gray area when it comes to the deductions of expenses for small businesses. Consult your accountant about specific items if you’re unsure.

How can I be sure that I’m not missing out on tax deductions?

This is a little tricky because your tax preparer may not know about an activity or transaction you have that has tax implications and you may not know that the activity/transaction has tax implications. The best place to start is by reviewing my tax checklists. If you think you may have a situation that has tax implications that is not listed in these checklists, please discuss it with your preparer. There’s never any harm in asking!

What do I do if I can’t pay my tax bill?

Even if you’re unable to pay the tax you owe when you file, you should still file on time. Filing and paying are two different transactions with the taxing authorities. They can charge penalties for both. The IRS and most states offer installment payment plans. Your tax professional can provide more information on those and may offer additional options depending on the situation.

Why is the IRS (or state) charging me penalties and interest?

The taxing authorities want to be paid through the year. If you owe more than 10% of your total tax liability when you file, you may be charged a penalty and/or late fee, as well as interest, on the balance due. Also, remember that filing an extension only extends the time you have to file your return. It does not extend the time to pay. You are expected to pay your entire tax liability no later than April 15th. So if you expect to owe on your tax return when you file an extension, you should make a payment with the extension. If you do not, you may be charged penalties and interest for the amount remaining after April 15th, even if that amount is less than 10% of your total liability.

What do I do if I get a letter from the IRS or state?

First, don’t panic. Second, don’t procrastinate. Read the letter and determine why they’re contacting you. If you’re unsure, contact your tax preparer as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the issue and advise. The sooner you address the issue, the easier it will be to resolve it.

Deborah Fleischman CPA PLLC