Read this before you file: 3 insider tips for tax season

In my last column, I discussed the importance of caution when selecting a tax return preparer — whether that’s you, a volunteer, a paid professional, or an “unenrolled paid preparer” — that is, someone who is not a CPA, attorney, or enrolled agent.

Because of extremely strict tax deadlines and professional considerations, your tax preparer offers unique services under constraints not found elsewhere in the marketplace — and he or she will likely have to work a lot of overtime to make sure your returns are done correctly. (I’m a CPA myself, and I put in 50 or more hours each week during tax seasons.)

There are a lot of things your tax preparer would like you to know about in preparation for doing your tax returns:

Realize that your tax preparer can’t assume you’re always right. 

Although many other professions operate under a “the customer is always right” ethos, our responsibility to our clients is to legally minimize our clients’ tax liabilities, while simultaneously protecting them from scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state and local tax authorities. We have to follow strict professional rules about what we can and can’t do for our clients, on pain of severe penalties.

For example, if you have reportable income, we can’t leave it out of your returns, and if you have nondeductible expenses, we can’t claim them as deductions or credits.

We will have to ask you to provide us with appropriate documentation for anything you’re trying to claim or omit. That means that if you earned income, you’ll need to show us a Form W-2, 1099, K-1, or other business documentation that proves that you earned the income and it is taxable (or not).

If you want to claim a deduction or credit, you’ll need to show us appropriate documentation for that deduction or credit, like a receipt from a charity acknowledging a donation over $250 that meets IRS specifications for a charitable contribution.

And we can’t promise you refunds when your aggregated tax records show that you aren’t entitled to them. If you owe tax, it’s up to you to pay it on time with your returns or extensions.

Be prepared when you meet with us. 

Your tax preparer needs all the records necessary to report your financial transactions on your returns. If you sold assets such as stocks, bonds or real estate last year, we need all your 1099s and closing statements to establish not only the selling dates and prices, but also the acquisition dates and prices of the assets. If you have itemized or business deductions, such as medical expenses or job-related expenses, we need all of them in order to complete the appropriate forms.

The more complete your records are, the more efficiently we can prepare your returns — and the returns of all our other clients. We realize you may not have all the information at once, but please don’t deliver it in trickles — or at least, warn us that you don’t have it all when you bring it to us. It’s not efficient for us to have to take apart your return, insert new information, and put it back together again if we’ve already prepared it for you.

Be respectful of our time. 

Because we have to serve a large number of clients within a finite period of time, we’d appreciate it if you realize that we need to be efficient.

We have to limit the amount of time we can spend with you that doesn’t involve tax preparation. So we may cut you short if you try to engage us too long in small talk or are looking for non-tax-related assistance, such as investment or loan advice. Please save this for after tax season if possible — especially as the filing deadlines approach.

Please don’t be “that client” — the one who drags containers of receipts to our offices that have not been previously organized and totaled. Take the time to organize and total your documents before you bring them to us. If we have to spend extra time doing it, it’s time that we can’t use more effectively on your behalf — or on behalf of other clients.

And please don’t wait until the last minute to bring your information to us, even if you don’t have all your information. Plan ahead by bringing us whatever you can, as soon as you can, and let us know what you’re waiting on. If you need your returns in a hurry, bring your information to us earlier so we’ll have a reasonable amount of time to prepare your returns.

We tax preparers will appreciate your courtesy as we do our best to hold off Mr. Tax Man for you.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.