Now that tax season is over and there has been some chance for recovery, let’s look at where we go from here. Next week I will address where you can on a more personal basis, but for now I want to look at things on an institutional basis.
First, don’t look for any huge changes in how the tax system looked from this season to next year. Granted, with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, they are able to make more noise about the president’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but the party does not have the wider power that would be necessary to make widespread, sweeping changes. This year we did get some relief for those who did not have enough withheld from their paychecks to not have to pay as many fines to the IRS, but that was about it as far things went for changes since the start of the year. There was even just talk of trying to extend the tax deadline and that went away pretty quickly. So the rules are here to stay at least for now.
Beyond that, though, there may be some changes coming for the IRS itself. Last week the agency announced that it had a six-year plan to update its information technology systems. As a taxpayer, this is a positive for it should lead to enhanced security and may even help the agency with its service and the speed (and the current lack of it) at which it happens. The fact that this is going to take six years tips off the fact that the IRS is not swimming in money. Of course, it is a big, sprawling institution that does not exist in just one spot, but six years to redo some systems is a timeframe that seems to say it can’t afford to do it all at once. President Trump, however, has started to say that IRS may need some more money, calling for funding to be used for tax enforcement.
Financial cuts at the agency have been going on for years, resulting in extremely low levels of audits. From a budgeting perspective, one can’t be faulted for looking at increasing enforcement, for there must be a level where enough success in that area would pay for itself. At the same time, it feels dangerous, though, for the words ‘enforcement’ and ‘taxes’ just go together in a frightening way. Again, though, I say these are only positive changes. You can debate what tax laws should be, but shouldn’t everyone fairly pay what they are required under those laws? Both enhanced enforcement and better technology will only help with this.
And for those who follow the rules, there should not be any huge worries here. An audit is never fun, but if you did what is allowed under the law, then it will only be a nuisance. If you want to make real changes, the place to put your efforts is not in these large institutional areas, but to do what you can for yourself in your own personal situation.
So come back next week …
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This is one of those times when you will have to forgive me for not putting a lot of words out there. It may still take another day or two to get the mind right after the end of tax season.
But let me start with two important words – thank you.
The end of tax season is always a bit heartening even through the exhaustion. To have clients that return to our organization year after year, especially in this world of increasing options, is uplifting. It allows us to feel the value of what we provide and to strengthen those bonds that we make with many of our clients, and dare I even say friends.
This is something that I feel every year, but it was augmented this year. The uncertainly of what one’s tax picture looked like was greater in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. For the most part, that uncertainty was quelled as many returns weren’t THAT different than previous years. And it’s always nice to give good news to people who worried that they may be receiving bad news.
Some clients, though, received that bad news. I’m sure you have heard some of these stories through other means, so I will not elaborate much here. Just with the rule changes we had, there were bound to be some people on the bad side of them, and some ended up way on the bad side.
And yes, it wasn’t nearly as nice to deliver news to these people, but to have the ability to walk them through what changed, how it affected that final number, and to start thinking about what we could do to lessen the hurt in the future was still heartening.
This is because beyond the numbers is the comfort of knowing you are being taken care of and that someone has your back. That is something that we pride ourselves on here.
But it is also something that we received from our clients. You are the ones who let us do what we do and the trust you place in us takes care of us. So yes, thank you.
Now for another nap …
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We are almost there. We are so almost there that it is difficult to put thoughts together in a coherent way and bring them to you this week. So forgive me if this feels a little bit all over the place.
So yes, the biggest point to make is that we are almost there – to the end of tax season. Monday marks the day (for almost everyone) that your taxes are due to be filed and any taxes owed to be paid. So sure you may have a few days on the calendar to get there, but if you do not already have an appointment with us to file your taxes, we cannot promise that you can get one.
If you procrastinated too much and still want an appointment, still feel free to reach out (just also please understand if it takes a little longer for us to get back to you than normal). We will at least be able to assist you with applying for an extension, which could be the best way to go in this final days.
As always, remember that an extension gives you more time to file your taxes, but it does not give you more time to pay any taxes owed. Granted, you may not even yet know that you owe taxes, but when you do find out that you do and it’s after April 15th, then there will likely be penalties and interest involved on top of what you owe.
Still, though, an extension is better than rushing your taxes out there and making errors. If you’re afraid that you will owe taxes, yes, try not to further procrastinate through your six-month window to finish your filing and let that interest build. You do still, however, want to make sure that you take the time needed to make sure that you are submitting a complete and legitimate tax return.
Heck, even if you know that you are expecting a refund, you shouldn’t wait another six months to file your return. Why let someone else hold onto your money when you’re not earning any interest on it?
So making an appointment as soon after April 15th as you can is a benefit in either of those situations. And there are still some other situations where another meeting could benefit you, too.
Were you surprised by a tax bill this year? Well then you don’t want to also face it next year, so let’s get together and discuss some changes you can make to hold it off.
Were you surprised by the size of your refund this year? Well then is it your best decision to let the government hold onto your money until next year? Granted, it’s a pleasant surprise to get that big deposit all at once, but maybe you’d like to get that money throughout the year. It comes in smaller chunks, sure, but you can have that portion put into an account that you never touch and let it grow on your terms and have it available for potential emergencies.
No matter what, putting things off rarely improves anyone’s situation. So don’t breathe too much as tax season ends if there are things you still need to do to make next year better.
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As you read this, we are in the final stages of tax season. I know when I start writing about tax season it feels like there is a lot of time left to file. Since few people really enjoy preparing their taxes, it becomes something that is very easy to push down the to-do list and procrastinate.
BUT YOU NOW HAVE LESS THAN TWO WEEKS LEFT!!!
There’s not much more I can do than that to make you aware of the situation (come on, I used caps and exclamation points after all). At this point, I cannot guarantee that you’ll get a prime appointment time when you schedule your tax prep, but there are at least some left (for now), so get on it.
If the time crept on you too much, also get in contact if you are going to need to file an extension on your taxes. That will give you a much bigger window in which to file your taxes, but we should still talk before taking that action. There are things to consider there, too, like the fact that you gain time to file, but paying any taxes owed is still due on the 15th.
Where's My Refund?
For those of you who have filed your taxes and are waiting on a return, let this also be a time for me to reiterate that we have no secret ways to find out the exact state of your refund is in the deep IRS process and cannot do anything to see that you receive it faster.
The best way to find this information remains through the IRS itself. The agency has a Where’s My Refund? spot on its website and also has an IRS2Go app.
These places will let you know the status of your return, if your refund is approved, and give you a good idea of when to expect that refund. That should give the information you’re seeking, but if you anything doesn’t look right and we prepared your return, let us know, for at that time there may be some more guidance we can offer.
Finally, this has been an unorthodox tax season because everyone was curious about just how their return would look under the new rules established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. You could have made good guesses about where you would stand, but that actual final number still means a lot.
And you really could only have made guesses along the way, because just how some of the rules would be implemented was unclear even into the filing season. In fact, just over the last week the IRS issued some more guidance on the new limit on deductions on state and local taxes.
This can be too “in the weeds” to handle here (especially as I talk about how tax season is winding down), but I did want to at least make you aware of the information in case it was something you wanted to know more about. So here is how the Journal of Accountancy handled the news and also a look at it from Accounting Today.
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