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January 9, 2013

Happy returns — Professionals, IRS offer advice on 2012 tax preparation

By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer

With the U.S. Congress averting the fiscal cliff Dec. 31 and Jan.1, taxpayers can focus on the here and now, which means filing 2012 tax returns before April 15.

“2012 is over with, and it is what it is, and (taxpayers) shouldn’t have many surprises when they come see me,” CPA Gary Lud of Franklin Tax and Accounting said Dec. 28 of filing 2012 tax returns. 

“In 2013, they’ll probably have a lot of questions … and hopefully by then, in the next month or two, we’ll know what is going to happen.”

Lud said that, while most 2012 returns will be similar to 2011 returns, the No. 1 thing filers should do is prepare themselves with all available resources when contacting their tax professionals or preparing their returns.

“The last two tax returns are something I like to look at,” Lud said. “Overall, it gives me an overview of the last couple years, and if something was missed on the last couple of tax returns.

“Number two is, list out some of the deductions you’re taking — donations to either churches or other organizations. Have those letters in hand,” Lud added. “And wait for your 1099 (forms) to come in from your mortgage company.

“Have your W2 (form) and your 1099 interest forms from your banks or your investment statements from the banks. Usually, the year-end summary is the one I like to see, if it gives you all the gains and losses.”

To ensure that taxpayers are filing the proper forms and making the most of their federal and state returns, professionals like Janet Coventry, founder of Plan B Tax and Accounting in Madison Heights, advise talking with a professional before the actual filing.

“The best way to know what you need to do and when you need to do it is to call (a tax professional),” Coventry said. “There are some changes in the state that will affect some people.”

Along with preparing the proper paperwork to shape a tax return, people can check out the Internal Revenue Service’s tips to reduce stress at tax time by visiting www.irs.gov.

Among the suggestions from the IRS website is utilizing the site’s resources, such as free file at www.irs.gov/freefile, which provides help to “do the hard work with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms.”

The IRS website also advises taxpayers to not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.

“Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute,” a statement on www.irs.gov reads. “Rushing to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error.”

Another perk of getting a 2012 return filed with the IRS as soon as possible is that it provides time to plan for any changes to tax laws in 2013.

“It’s (in) 2013 that we don’t know what is going to happen, and that could really affect a lot of people,” Lud said.

“I always inform my clients to start early and get all their information together for 2012 — especially business clients. Let’s get 2012 out of the way, so we’re in a planning phase for 2013.

“Get your information together sooner and seek out your tax preparer sooner and, business clients, talk to your accountant sooner, so you’re in a position to take advantage of 2013.

“I find a lot of businesses and people trying to save money by going online and doing their own taxes,” Lud added.

“And they do so in March. I always say, look to the future. You need to be ready to plan and look forward to the future.”