Money 101: Last-Minute Tax Tips, Tricks & Advice

Oh, hey there. Guess what day it is? April 17th! No, it’s not my birthday. It’s Tax Day! Alright, so maybe this isn’t an occasion for excitement and joy, but whether you like it or not, taxes must be paid by midnight tonight (unless you are filing an extension or giving the finger to Uncle Sam like these celebs). With that in mind, we’ve compiled some straightforward advice for you tax-filling slackers who waited until the very last second to file — like yours truly.

Getting The Tax Man On Your Level

Speaking to a tax associate may be like speaking with an alien. Not only do you not understand the terminology of what is really going on, chances are your tax guy is … well, a guy. Here’s how to get the tax man to speak on your level.

Ask Questions: The only way to get your accountant talking is to engage him. Keep your questions simple and he should keep the answers simple.

Tell Him What You Don’t Understand: If your accountant gives you an explanation you don’t understand, tell him or her. Accountants are so used to filling out governmental forms that they’ve lost at least some of their ability for everyday dialogue. Be honest and they will start trying to make you understand your taxes better.

Talk To Him About The Weather: Talk to your tax accountant about simple things like the weather. It will remind him that you are an average person who didn’t spend four years studying tax law in school.

Invite Him Out for Drinks: Is your tax accountant cute? You want to learn more about him and hear less about taxes? Invite him out for drinks. He will loosen up and you will see he’s normal just like you. Unless he has a wife who’s pregnant like my tax guy. Then that would be inappropriate.

Call Him Throughout The Year: Sure, you avoided seeing him until now, but going forward, keep in closer touch. Call him throughout the year for tax hints and show interest in your tax situation. He’s more likely to be receptive toward you and help you out.

Ethical Ways To Get A Discount From Your Tax Accountant

There are ethical standards that accountants have to go by. An accountant cannot take a percentage of your tax refund, nor can he or she give you a discount for unethical reasons — like in exchange for, I dunno, weapons or sex or something else that’s illegal. There are some things you can do to ensure that you get the best rate from your accountant.

Be An Early Bird: Yeah, so you’re running a tad late this year. But next year? When you get your W-2 in January, call your tax accountant and see if you can get in early. The longer you wait, the more likely he or she will charge you more. This is because of supply and demand — there are only 24 hours in a day and everyone is going to want the 24 hours on April 17 (or whatever day tax day falls in future years). If you’re early, your accountant won’t be as busy and will be more likely to work with you on a price.

Be A Late Bird: Extend your taxes (but don’t forget to pay any due) and allow your tax accountant to file your return in the summer. As long as you don’t wait until the October deadline, you should be fine. Just don’t forget that even though your return isn’t due, your taxes are.

Barter: Are you a hairdresser? Do you babysit? See if you can barter with your accountant. It’s actually legal, and he or she can teach you how to properly account for it on your tax return, as the value of bartered services is taxable as income.

Be Organized: Staying organized is the best way to get a discount because your tax accountant won’t spend as much time weeding through your financial junk. Keep your receipts organized by expense type, write the tax purpose of each expense on the top of your receipt, and your accountant will be pleased.

Ask For A Spreadsheet: If you are computer-literate and you don’t mind working on spreadsheets, ask your tax preparer for a spreadsheet where you can fill in your financial data. He can review it and make sure everything is treated properly for tax purposes. Because you’ve done some of the work, your bill won’t be that high.

How To Recognize An Unethical Or Crappy Tax Accountant

Last night as I was getting my taxes done last-minute, my accountant and I were shootin’ the breeze and he gave me a few helpful tips for recognizing when a tax guy is either ripping you off or preparing your return in a way that could get you in trubs. Here are a few shady tax guy red flags.

  1. It takes less than 30 minutes to do your taxes.
  2. He doesn’t want to take the time to sit and explain what he’s doing and why.
  3. Included in your fee are things that he’s required to do by law: File federal and state forms and provide you with copies of your return.

Additionally, accountants are prohibited from taking a contingency fee — meaning they will only take payment if they get you money back. Furthermore, if he claims to be a CPA and your state board of public accountancy has no record of him, turn the accountant in. He is violating the law.