February 1st…the days are getting a little longer, the wind is getting a little softer, and we Mid-westerners begin emerging from our winter cocoons with little rays of hope for brighter days. We walk out to the mail box, take a deep breath of fresh air, only to have our moods dampened by the items in our post: W-2s, interest statements, and charitable contribution summaries (oh my!). Yep, this is the month one cannot deny that the time has come for us to reconcile our debts to Uncle Sam. What’s a person to do to avoid / minimize the stress of this season? Well, first and foremost, I will advise you to consult your tax professional, because he or she will be able to give you the most accurate and reliable advice for your particular situation. That said, I can suggest a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for that consultation. First, keep EVERYTHING that comes in the mail that even appears to be tax-related. The “less is more” concept does not apply when it comes to tax prep. Go through your 2016 calendar, bank statements, and credit card statements for any brain trigger of something that might be pertinent to your filing. That brass cat statue that you purchased at the scouts’ silent auction? Depending on the circumstances, a portion of it might possibly be deductible. Child care, education, medical, and mortgage expenses all have the POTENTIAL to be deductible, so gather all the info you can on these expenses and organize them in a way that will NOT make your CPA want to pull out his/her hair. Get your ducks in a row, contact your tax pro, and set up a date to meet. And, please know that if you wait until April 12th to get started, you will not get the stress-free experience that you hope for. Why not get ahead of the crowd and start today? You’ll feel better getting it taken care of early, and your tax pro will love that you came in ahead of the rush. So, grab a cup of coffee (and an extra for your CPA–they need all the caffeine they can get at this time of year), and get started! Come April 15, you’ll be relaxing in the spring sunshine while your neighbors scramble to get their returns completed. Let me know if you need a referral to a CPA–I’ve got a few who would be happy to help. Good luck!
By Alyce Penry, talktotucker.com/alyce.penry