Newspaper Archive of
Sioux County Index-Reporter
Hull, Iowa
February 17, 2010     Sioux County Index-Reporter
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February 17, 2010

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Tips on selecting an accountant If you're in need of an accountant to assist you with your taxes, make sure you do your homework. Word-of-mouth referrals from individuals who have used the ser- vices of a particular accountant are probably the most helpful thing you can receive -- especially if your friends work in the same field as you. When selecting an accountant, you should consider the following tips: Check his or her license sta- tus with your local government, to make sure the license is current and active. Check whether there have been any enforcement actions against the licensee and how long he or she has been licensed. Interview the prospecti;ce accountant either by telephone or in person. A common inquiry is "what type of accounting work do you typically perform?" Compare the accountant's experience to your service needs. Ask about office hours to determine whether the office is open year-round and to inquire if the accountant is available to take telephone inquiries when you have questions or need help. Ask what type of continuing education the licensee has taken recently. If you are interested in income tax preparation services, ask if the practitioner can be reached later in the year if you need help with an audit. If the services you require include either reviewed or audit- ed financial statements, ask the accountant if he or she participates in a peer review or quality review program? If yes, ask the year and month -- and the result -- of the most recent review. Before any work is done, it is important to make certain that you receive an engagement letter detail- ing the work to be performed for you, including who specifically wil! be performing the work (including whether the work is outsourced), confirming that all private and per- sonal information is secure, and specifying the cost of the services. It is now possible to purchase public accounting services on the internet. While this appears to be a convenient way to access a broad range of services, it is important to "do your homework" before select- ing a practitioner. Keep in mind that because inter- net practice involves no face-to-face client contact, it may be easier for unqualified persons to masquerade as accountants. Also, remember a practitioner offering services on the Interact may be physically located anywhere in the world. Be sure to verify that the infor- mation about the firm on its web site is accurate and that the firm provides the same information when you make contact by tele- phone. Get organized at tax time uring the last cou- ple months, you've probably received a flurry of important tax-related documents in the mai L -They serve as a reminder that the deadline for submit- ting your tax return is looming ahead on April 15. Do yot have everything you need? Getting your tax return done can be stressful, but the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants offers this advice on what you can do to better ensure that your return is completed on time and accu- rately. They also offer tips on ways to plan ahead so you can take some of the stress out of tax time next year. Get organized. By the beginning of February; organizations should have sent you many of the doc- uments you need to complete your return. This will include a W-2 from your employer showing what you've earned this year, Forms 1099 report- ing any additional earnings and investment income you've received, and statements from your mortgage company, bank or other lender with details that you'll need for your return. You may also receive other paperwork, documenting medi- cal bills you've paid and char- itable donations or financial investments you have made. CPAs recommend that you set aside all of this material as soon as you receive it in a special folder or envelope so that you don't have to search for it when you're ready to do your return. In add!tion, find last year's tax return so that you have it handy for back- ground information and to see what further documentation you're deducting or donations you have made. You should also set aside documents relat- ing to major events during the last year, including the closing documents and mortgage infor- mation for a home purchase. That's why it's a good idea you need based on what was to create a tax file for next used last time. year today, to gather the mate- Make order out of chaos Gathering your documen- tation is a good first step, but it's also important to .put it in workable order. Sort the paperwork into different files or folders based on whether it relates, for example, to income dr deductions. Take statements and papers out of the envelopes in which they were mailed so they are easier to identify and access. You might also want to make a list of the documents you have and the amounts involved in each case. That will make it easier for you or your CPA to get a timely start on your tax return. rial you'll need for next year's return now. As you gather this paperwork, remember, too, to ask your CPA about any tax savvy steps you can take now to reduce next year's tax bur- den. Stay informed It's easier to organize your tax retum information if you understand more about how the tax law affects you. The CPA profession's "360 Degrees of Financial Literacy" program provides answers to many taxpayer questions, including details on recent changes in legislation. You can find more information at Prepare throughout the year Not all of the documents you require for your tax return will come in the mail in January and February. For example, you may need credit card or bank statements and records of cancelled checks that you receive during the year that show purchases or transactions you have made. You might also use receipts that verify items Your local CPA can help Many people turn to CPAs to help them complete their tax returns and perform tax planning for the coming year. Remember to consult your CPA with all your tax or other financial questions. If you are looking for a CPA, go to www.findanIo- Questions to ask your CPA at tax time Tackling your tax return can be a challenging task. That's why it's a good idea to arrive at your tax return preparation appointment ready with questions that will help clarify the issues that concern you most. The Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants offers these tips on what to ask your tax preparer at tax time. What are your qualifica- tions? There are many different types of tax preparers out there, so it's good to find out who you're working with so you're sure your return is handled cor- rectly. "To begin with, ask about the preparer's education and licensing, and what steps were necessary to achieve them. A CPA, for example, is a tax and finance expert who must pass a rigorous examination and qual- ify for state licensing, which means these professionals have the most comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of tax laws and filing procedures. In addition to asking about licensing and education, find out how long the person has been preparing returns and whether he or she usually works with clients whose financial sit- uations are similar to your own. What will I have to pay in taxes this year? Your CPA will discuss your total tax pay- ment and whether you will owe additional taxes this year or get a refund. Most important, he or she can also explain how your income and expenses affected the taxes you will pay so that you can better understand the steps necessary to minimize your taxes if possible in the future. How can I lower my taxes? Ask your tax preparer if you are eligible to make contribu- tions to an individual retire- ment account. If you are, taking that step before April 15 can help lower your taxable income -- and your taxes. Otherwise, there's not much you can do to reduce the taxes on the return you are preparing now. However, your CPA can discuss your opportunities for cutting your 2010 taxes. There are many strategies you can use to reduce some of your tax bur- den, ranging from small adjust- ments to more serious steps. Your CPA can describe which ones apply in your situation. What tax law changes will affect my return this year? Congress has been very active in passing new .tax and eco- nomic stimulus and recovery legislation during the last year. In particular, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 made numer- ous changes for taxpayers. That means there may be new rules that will have an impact on people, such as first-time homebuyers, new car purchas- ers, those who are paying or saving for higher education, and anyone receiving unem- ployment benefits, among other taxpayers. There are also important new credits and subsidies for small business owners. Your CPA can explain the new regu- lations and discuss how to take advantage of any tax saving opportunities now and in the future. What if I think I made a mistake on last year's return? The IRS will often catch math errors and alert you to them. They may also get in touch with you if they believe there is information missing from your return. If you left out income or didn't claim a credit or deduc- tion, it's also possible to file an amended return correcting the mistake. Your CPA can discuss your options if you find your- self in this situation. START a success U.S. Bank is rolling out a new savings program that arrives just in time for the thousands of Americans who resolve to save more money in 2010. U.S. Bank's Savings Today And Rewards Tomorrow TM or START program successfully launched new savings goals and plans for thousands of individu- als who signed up in the pilot program in Seattle, Cincinnati and Joplin/Springfield, Mo., in 2009. Customers in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington were the next to experience the program, which continues a phased rollout throughout early 2010. U.S. Bank customers in Iowa have been able to sign up for START since Feb. 1. "The resolve to save money is surely among the many things Americans will try to do better in 2010, and we are here to help them get started," said Rick Hartnack, vice-chairman and head of con- sumer banking at U.S. Bank. "Our program was designed by our cus- tomers with the goal of making the program simple, the savings relevant and the goals achievable. That's what we did -- and clearly, it's working. Our customers are saving more." START is a simple and reward- ing way for everyone to save. The program allows customers to regu- larly transfer money into a savings account and to earn rewards when they reach certain savings mile- stones. Customers choose how they want to contribute and how much they want save, whether it is a little every week, a little with every pay- check or a little with every debit or credit card purchase. To accelerate the savings, customers can also automatically sweep into their START account the cash they earn through their FlexPerks rewards program. Savers are congratulated with a $50 U.S. Bank Rewards Visa Card when savings balances build to $1,000, and if they maintain that balance for one year, they will earn another $50 Rewards Visa Card from U.S. Bank to use as they wish -- no strings attached. Customers will find START information at their U.S. Bank branch and online at www.usbank. com/start, where they can also use the online calculator to determine their savings goals and the methods that will work best for them. U.S. Bancorp, with $281 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2009, is the parent company of U.S. Bank, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The company oper- ates 3,002 banking offices in 25 states (including Rock Rapids) and 5,170 ATMs and provides banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment ser- vices products to consumers, busi- nesses and institutions. Professional Personalized Attention - Income Tax Planning & Preparation - Computerized Accounting, Payroll & Sales Tax Services tbr Individuals & Businesses For all your accounting needs, it's the stable, reliable company with the security of experience and the energy of youth, the ones you can trust! - Auditing Services - Financial Statement Preparation - Consulting Services We welcome KAYLA DE BOER to our company Frontier Bank Can Hel Expand Nest