January 17, 2024 8:50 pm

Your Income Tax Needs

By Jaclyn Barkow, DBA, EA

Now that the New Year 2024 is upon us, tax season is fast approaching! For your personal taxes, there are a few security measures you should be aware of, regardless of your tax situation; whether you just won the Powerball, retired, landed your dream job as a YouTuber or anything in between. All individuals with income must file a tax return. Some taxpayers are self-preparers, while others may use a tax preparation service of some kind. Regardless, your tax return has all the information thieves are interested in obtaining for personal benefit. Your name, address, birthday, social security number, and income information are all available on the return. Here are a few key things you should be aware of when planning your tax filing needs.

If you are a self-filer, using your own personal knowledge and resources, (may we suggest the JK Lasser “Your Income Tax 2024” book as a resource?) be aware of the software and internet access throughout your filing process. For the most efficient filing, you will most likely use a tax software or web service. Be sure that you select software or filing system that is reputable and does not appear suspicious. Be cautious of emails requesting additional information from you as these are most often ploys to get you to provide information for a scam.

If you use a tax professional, consider your individual tax complexity when selecting your professional. Some tax professionals hold licenses or credentials such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent (EA), or are registered under the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). While not all professionals will hold a credential, all should have a Preparer Tax Id Number (PTIN) to file taxes for payment. Before entrusting your personal information with a tax professional, you should familiarize yourself with the tax professional’s training and experience. You can verify the various credentials using the IRS public directory if you are unsure. You may also qualify for IRS sponsored programs such as VITA or TCE, depending upon your income, age, and tax complexity.

Be aware of “Ghost” preparers, tax preparers who refuse to sign the return they are preparing and filing for you. To legally be paid for filing a tax return, a preparer must have a PTIN. If the preparer does not sign or provide a PTIN on the return, consider these red flags. The IRS has also warned of other red flags such as for unscrupulous tax return preparers such as:

  • Cash payment required payment method for services.
  • Adjust income on the return to qualify for credit.
  • Adjust deductions to increase refund.
  • Use bank routing and account information that does not belong to the taxpayer.

Every single individual has a different tax situation. If you must pay taxes, the tax due is your responsibility so your understanding of the information contained in your return is essential. You should be comfortable with the information included in the return and understand the numbers before you sign your name. Ultimately, the liability for tax accuracy is on the taxpayer. If you prepare your own return, be sure you select a tax filing tool that is reputable and use an internet connection that is safe. If you have your taxes prepared by a tax professional, be comfortable with the professional, their credentials, and be aware of the red flags. Never sign a tax return that contains information you did not furnish.

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Tax Glossary

Capital asset

Property subject to capital gain or loss treatment. Almost all assets you own are considered capital assets except for certain business assets or works you created.

More terms