Watching the Olympics the past couple weeks from New York/New Jersey metro tax preparation headquarters (well, not while we’re preparing your taxes, of course!), and on the heels of the Super Bowl, we’ve been treated to some pretty great commercials lately, haven’t we? Some of the spots for the Olympics were downright inspiring.
But, of course, we all know that they are made with the express purpose to cause us to purchase. Either through creating dissatisfaction with our current lot, provoking envy/greed/jealousy/desire or by associating a brand with some really nice feelings.
Now, I’m certainly not one to rail against marketing per se. In a sense, this blogpost on my Team Lillian Turner -Bowman site is marketing (of a sort).
But sometimes that marketing can lead New York/New Jersey metro-area consumers down a path which isn’t in their best interests. And though my writing this could easily be seen as self-serving, that doesn’t keep it from being true. Here’s what I’m referring to:
Trying to prepare your taxes correctly (and completely) on your own.
I should say that I don’t like to crow about other people’s mistakes — especially other, local New York/New Jersey metro tax professionals.
In fact, in our line of work, much of what we get to do is to *fix* or alleviate those mistakes, at least when it comes to their tax implications. This year (of all years) carries so many changes that tax software users who fall prey to screaming offers and seductive easy-buttons from the “cheap” options are more exposed to wallet-sucking mistakes, or even an audit.
Do you remember when even the former Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, testified about tax irregularities in his own personal returns? Do you remember what DIDN’T help him find those irregularities?
Turbo Tax. (Link to a brief clip of his testimony before the Senate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKVxGlkPRlo#t=130 )
And he’s not alone here in New York/New Jersey metro. But there’s a good way to fix that problem…
… and a BIG incentive to do so, by the way, at the end of my Note.
Turbo-Charged Audits and Mistakes — Eliminated By Lillian Turner -Bowman
“Talent is a gift that brings with it an obligation to serve the world, and not ourselves, for it is not of our making.” -Jose Marti
You may have heard me say it before, but it’s true: Did you know that we New York/New Jersey metro-area tax accountants sometimes joke to one another about how good these online software programs (TaxSlayer, TurboTax, TaxACT, FreeFile, etc.) are for our business? Firstly, they are not as “easy to use” as claimed, and secondly … they cost you an arm and a leg.
You might think they’re cheap. And on the surface, you might be right (though, in the last few years, a $1 Billion class action lawsuit was filed in the federal court in Philadelphia alleging gross misstatement of fees and deceptive standards of the federal “FreeFile” program … so even on the surface, it wasn’t always cheap). But I’m not even talking about the money for the service itself.
Using those programs can end up leaving hundreds, or even thousands of your dollars in the coffers of Uncle Sam … even if you follow all of their instructions to a tee. I see it all the time — frustrated New York/New Jersey metro-area tax preparation clients bringing in their prior year’s tax return, astonished at all the “hidden money” my staff and I are able to find for them.
Choosing the wrong method, or forms, in filing your taxes can place you directly in the crosshairs for an audit.
Even if you don’t owe a ton of back taxes, you still don’t want your record to show some IRS agent that there has been a discrepancy of some kind in the past, so that red flags begin to fly, and then more bureaucratic people start looking through all of your past tax filings and current income holdings … basically taking your social security number, and poking around in your private life.
(And if you think they won’t do this, read a little online about the increased “enforcement” measures the IRS has been taking the last few years.)
They can do a lot of things you won’t want them to do. However, if you keep a clean slate (no IRS correspondence with you, related to filing your taxes incorrectly), the opportunities for them to mess with your personal stuff will be limited.
Here’s another reason why this is so important … now more than ever. New government regulations in 2013-4 (including the much-delayed ACA regulations), delays in Congressional action, and issues with refund “loans” from the big chains are creating a mess in the tax industry… and the “Big Brand Names” (you know who I’m talking about) do NOT want you to think much about it. In fact, they’re doing all they can this year to hold on to their business, and trust me — it is not always good for you.
Yes, it can be seductive to “go it alone” … to trust a piece of software to point out possible deductions. To trust your work to poorly-trained preparers in a big box office. To protect against your chances of audits through online chatroom support or hourly employees.
But it can be a big trap.
Just ask Tim Geithner.
And once again, allow me to remind you that though we are VERY busy right now, we always have time for you. Give us a call at (718) 953-6455 , and let’s get your tax return started right now…
Lillian Turner -Bowman