Need help filing your return? Make sure you get an expert who's perfect for your situation.
Individual taxpayers find tax return preparation so confusing that many pay a professional to do it for them. But which tax preparer should you choose?
Different types of tax preparation professionals have varying degrees of training and experience. A few states regulate tax preparers. The Internal Revenue Service also has begun a system to track and, in some cases, test tax preparers.
But it is the responsibility of taxpayers to determine which tax pro is best for their personal tax situations.
Budget cuts mean taxpayers who need help will spend more time waiting on the phone.
If you have a question about your taxes, here's a tip: Be prepared to be very patient.
The Internal Revenue Service answered a smaller share of taxpayer calls and kept taxpayers on hold longer last year than in other recent years, a new report finds. What's more, budget cuts could make it hard for taxpayers to get help this year as well.
The IRS could answer only 61 percent of the calls it received from taxpayers during the 2013 fiscal year, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said in a report released to Congress on Jan. 9.
That means that the rest of the calls -- about 20 million -- just didn't get through, the independent taxpayer advocate said.
Taxpayers who got help had to wait a long time for it. The taxpayer advocate said callers who got through were on hold for an average of nearly 18 minutes before talking to a customer service representative during the 2013 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
Reduced funding harms ordinary taxpayers and makes the agency less effective.
There is an old trick in both government and business to get rid of an operation you don't like through stealth -- you simply cut its budget gradually, thus causing its effectiveness to suffer, and then cut it some more because it is ineffective.
Repeat until the operation is so weak and can be abolished altogether.
Republicans have been playing this trick with the Internal Revenue Service for years. The agency has become the all-purpose whipping boy to excite Tea Party members and divert attention from the performance problems resulting directly from Congress's failure to fund it properly.
The Obama administration has stood by passively, doing nothing whatsoever to counter Republican attacks.
The problems at the IRS will only get worse; the new budget gives it $526 million less than it got in 2013, which was cut from what it got in 2012, which was cut from what it got in 2011. And these are dollar cuts; in inflation-adjusted terms the budget reduction is even greater.
The IRS Oversight Board has repeatedly criticized Congress for failing to provide the IRS with adequate resources to do its job.
Despite the death of a 2009 bill to make pet expenses tax deductible, there are instances when owners can save money on their tax bills.
Pets play an important role in our lives. We feed them, clean them, play with them and spend some of the best times of our lives with them. We provide them with all the same medical care and comforts afforded to any one of our family members. After all, our dogs, cats and other diminutive friends are no different than people, really; they're our family, so shouldn't it seem obvious that Fido and Rex get the same tax return breaks as their human brethren?
Animal lovers have long lobbied for a formalized, nationwide pet tax deduction policy -- something to compensate for what we spend annually at the groomer, the veterinarian or the pet store.
Thousands or millions of dollars? Think again. According to The Huffington Post, Americans spend some $45 billion a year on pet care.
In 2009, a Michigan senator introduced a bill that would give pet owners up to $3,500 a year in tax refunds for "qualified pet care" costs. It was an ambitious, heavily inclusive piece of lawmaking that would've saved pet owners a chunk of money. Unfortunately, the HAPPY Act (short for Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) didn't pass muster on Capitol Hill, despite a decent showing of public support.
In spite of the HAPPY Act's demise, there are some examples of tax-deductible pet care for our four-legged friends.
The identity theft rate in Florida -- with Miami as the epicenter -- is at more than 360 complaints for every 100,000 residents.
By Curt Anderson, The Associated Press
Florida has the nation's highest rate of identity theft, led by the fraud-wracked Miami area, and thieves are increasingly using the ill-gotten personal information to rip off the government through fraudulent tax refunds, said a top federal prosecutor.
The identity theft rate in Florida in 2012 was more than 361 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the most recent Federal Trade Commission data. Georgia was next at 194 complaints per 100,000 residents, followed by California and Michigan at about 122 complaints each and New York at 110. The 2012 figures are the most recent.
It pays to listen to the tax pros if you want a smooth and painless filing.
Between now and April 15, as you start preparing your taxes, the best thing you can do for your wallet is think about how you can make life easier for your tax preparer.
Another way to put it: You can present your preparer with a pile of unorganized receipts and get through the process painfully, or you can do some preparation and make everyone happy. Here are some thoughts, suggestions and requests from tax preparers on what they wish taxpayers would do when putting together their tax paperwork. It's also good advice to follow if you're doing your own taxes.
Americans spend an average of $261 to get an itemized federal and state tax return done. Check out these tips to get free help with your return this year.
This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.
Tax season is upon us, and tax return preparers have already opened their doors to those looking to be the first to file when the Internal Revenue Service begins accepting returns on Jan. 31.
But professional tax preparation can come at a hefty price. The National Society of Accountants says the average cost to prepare a 1040 tax form with itemized deductions and a state tax return is $261, while the cost of preparing a non-itemized 1040 and state return is $152.
Looking to save money on tax return preparation this year?
The agency is under fire for probing the tax-exempt status of conservative groups.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't plan to file criminal charges over the Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of conservative groups, law-enforcement officials said, a move that likely will only intensify debate over the politically charged scandal.
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