Residents urged to prepare early for tax season

The taxman cometh, and area accountants warn that he'll be here before residents know it.

Though the filing deadline is more than four months away, it's not too early to get prepared.

Cori Leiker, accountant with Accu-Comp/Cori Leiker Accounting said by the last week in January, she'll be fully booked a week in advance. By the second week in February she will have appointments scheduled every day for two to three weeks in advance.

"It depends on how fast employers get W-2s out," she said.

Residents should have their W-2s and 1099s by Jan. 31, something Leiker said she's flooded with calls about every year. She urges people who don't receive their W-2s by the deadline to talk to their employers or to call the Internal Revenue Service.

To prepare for tax season, Leiker took a 10-day vacation, which ended Tuesday. On April 16, she'll sleep.

It's never too early to prepare. Leiker recommends that people get all their deductible expenses organized early.

"The more organized you are, the more likely you are to get more deductions," she said.

She tells people to go through their checkbooks, gather closing statements on newly purchased or refinanced homes and medical expenses. Some deductions, she said, are often overlooked are those for medical expenses, business mileages or charitable contributions.

"Even if you don't think you'll itemize, get your stuff together to see," Leiker said. "You never know what the bottom line is until you add it up."

People who drive for work-related reasons can deduct their mileage whether their employer reimburses them or not. If their employer doesn't deduct the full amount allowed by the IRS, the person can deduct the difference.

People can also deduct mileage driven for charitable contributions -- Little League coaches who drive to Steamboat for games or those who serve on a board and drive across town for meetings.

"You just kind of have to look at expanding what you already do," Leiker said.

Credits often forgotten are those for education -- and there are many. Residents get a tax credit for contributing to an education savings plan. There are also credits available for lifetime learning and new students.

Leiker recommends at least consulting with a professional tax preparer before going it alone for those who plan to itemize. The cost, she said, is minimal -- or free -- and will at least give a person more ideas about possible deductions.

"Anybody who has normal deductions, I can find something they didn't think about," Leiker said. "The best investment a taxpayer can probably make is to find a good tax preparer with a lot of experience and just have a consultation."

She also recommends seeing a professional if a person has sold anything at a profit, has lots of medical expenses and doesn't know which ones are deductible or is just not comfortable itemizing.

"People think it's not worth the trouble -- it is worth the trouble," Leiker said. "It can save anywhere from 15 to 28 cents per dollar over the standard deduction. Almost without fail, I can think of something you didn't and save you the 28 cents."

There aren't many changes to the tax law this year that benefit residents. Businesses got luckier with changes to first year depreciation allowance limits from $24,000 to $100,000 a year.

"You can almost deduct all your equipment in one year instead of spreading it out over several years," Leiker said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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