Tips for tax-crunch time | SummitDaily.com
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Tips for tax-crunch time

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a “procrastinator” as someone who puts off intentionally and habitually the doing of something that should be done. But there is no picture accompanying that description.

Laura Steben knows what this person looks like, though. The certified public accountant sees this sort showing up at her Frisco office about this time of year – just days before the Internal Revenue Service’s tax filing deadline on April 15.

“They show up with a shoebox full of receipts – their forms are in another envelope – and they want us to get it done on time,” Steben said Friday, taking a break from the mountain of tax forms on her desk. “Some of them, strangely enough, I’ve never met. Someone just gave them my name and they send me an envelope in the mail.”

The last-minute deluge of people needing help with tax returns is part of the job, local accountants say, like the rush ski rental shops see during the winter holidays. According to the number-crunchers, though, the 11th-hour tax return is avoidable. Businesses normally aren’t the problem, because they work with the accountants on a regular basis for payroll and other accounting needs. But business owners sometimes put their personal tax work off until April and want the calculations done along with their company’s paperwork.

“Right now, I’m up to my eyes trying to get things done,” said Breckenridge CPA David Wetzel. “There’s always a lot to do at the last minute. How can people avoid it? Just don’t do it. Do your taxes ahead of time.”

Wetzel offered more advice for taxpayers in a pinch: file for an extension. He said people who don’t owe the IRS often create a “real problem” by missing the filing deadline, when a four-month extension is automatically granted just by filling out a form. People who do owe also can get an extension, but should make a payment to the IRS to avoid interest charges.

Post office workers have their advice, too. With the IRS deadline falling on Monday, postal handlers suggest filers get their paperwork in the mail today. The postmaster at the Frisco branch used to postmark mail on site, but changes brought on by anthrax scares after Sept. 11 transferred that duty to Denver to reduce mail handling. Postal workers said mail sent Monday might arrive in Denver by 8 p.m. with enough time to be postmarked, but there’s no guarantees the mail truck won’t break down along the way.

Steben said deadline filers who need help from CPAs also can make it easier for them by being organized. Have all the forms ready to go, in one folder, she said. Steben added that some clients call with “every little question,” which can slow work down, as well. And just like a six-pack greases the wheels for a ski tune, clients can show their appreciation for accountants.

“A bottle of wine can work wonders,” Steben said.

Unfortunately for the accountants, the work doesn’t end at the stroke of midnight on April 15. Those who handle corporate accounts shift gears after the IRS doomsday and get back to quarterly reports. They usually don’t get a break until May 1.

“Everybody thinks we’re done, but we’re not,” Steben said. “We get right back to it. But the first of the month, we take off.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

Tax tips from the IRS

Last-minute filers

n Put your social security number on the return – it’s not on the label.

n Double-check your figures.

n Sign your form.

n Attach all required schedules.

n Make checks out to “United States Treasury.”

Extensions

n A four-month extension gives you until Aug. 15 to file. Extensions can be requested by calling (888) 796-1074, by e-filing a Form 4868 (available with most tax software and at http://www.irs.gov) or by mailing a paper Form 4868 to the IRS. Extensions requested by phone or computer require the Adjusted Gross Income and Total Tax amounts from your 2000 return.

Missing paperwork

n For a photocopy of a previously processed tax return, complete Form 4506 and mail to the IRS address listed for your area on the form. There is a fee of $23.00 for each tax period requested. It may take up to 60 days, so file for an extension.

n A tax return transcript can be obtained in seven to 10 days, but is not an actual photocopy of your return. Transcripts are available for the 1040 series forms. There is no charge for transcripts.

n Forms and publications are available at http://www.irs.gov or (800) TA-FORM.

n If you did not receive a W-2 from your employer, double-check with a human resources officer to confirm they have the correct address. Form 4852 from the IRS can be used as a substitute for the W-2 form, but refunds will be delayed while the information is verified.

Tip income

n Hair salon, golf course, hotel or bartender – it’s taxable and subject to income, Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you’ve been doing it by the book, you’ve filled out IRS Publication 1244, “Emplyee’s Daily Record of Tips and Report of Tips to Employer.” The form is available by calling (800) TA-FORM.

n More than $20 in tips earned in any one month should be reported to your employer for federal withholding. For more information, check out IRS Publication 531, “Reporting Tip Income,” or IRS Publication 3148, “Tips on Tips.” Both are available at http://www.irs.gov.

If you can’t pay

n Don’t panic, there are options. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, setting your own monthly payment and due date, as well as a reduced penalty. There are several ways to pay by credit card and directly from bank accounts. The IRS uses two payment services, the Official Payments Corporation, (800) 2PAY-TA or http://www.officialpayments.com, and Phonecharge, Inc., (888) ALL-TA or http://www.1888ALLTA.com.


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