Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Block Advisors. All opinions are 100% my own.
Given the choice between death and taxes, as a long-time small business owner, I’m not sure which is worse. Both are inevitable, both invoke dread, and both are a bit easier to handle with prior planning and thought.
As I’ve written on this blog and in my book, Survival Mom, having multiple streams of income is vital to a family’s financial stability these days. That extra money is also important when it comes to being prepared for a job loss, medical emergency, and disasters of any kind. Offering piano lessons, tutoring, writing e-books, selling products on eBay or at a farmer’s market, and yes, writing a blog, can all bring in additional income, but with that income comes the requirement of record-keeping, paying taxes and filing tax reports.
It’s not always easy to find the best tax adviser, someone who stays up to date with the latest regulations, laws, and sometimes, loopholes. It may take asking friends, relatives, or other business owners for references or checking out the services offered by Block Advisors. From my own experience, when you find a tax professional that is knowledgeable, approachable, and available, by all means, hang on to them! They will be worth their weight in, well, lower taxes and possibly even refunds!
How to find the best tax adviser
Over the years, I’ve discovered that my business is most successful when I do what I do best and leave the rest to professionals. When I launched my first home-based business more than 20 years ago, I knew I would need a tax professional to help guide me through the labyrinth of tax laws, reports, due dates, and tax payments. At a personal level, it was bewildering to make sure we took advantage of every possible deduction, paying what we owed, but not a penny more!
If you are just starting out with a business, or you want a good tax adviser for your own personal taxes, then learn from my experiences, and mistakes.
1. Do not hire a relative to do your taxes, even if they are a professional!
Your mileage may vary, but I discovered that I wasn’t at all comfortable with a relative knowing all about our personal finances. In my case, the relative was up to date with all IRS laws and definitely knew how to do her job, but there was always this nagging feeling that she was dropping bits of confidential information into the ear of her mom, and then that would be shared with another relative and then another.
When it comes to running my business, I look for the best professionals who are not relatives!
2. Hire someone with a track record and a permanent business address!
During tax season, anyone with a calculator can post an ad in the local paper or on Craigslist and offer their services as your new tax adviser! Untrained and without knowledge of the latest information from the IRS, they could end up costing you an enormous amount of money due to errors, missed deadlines, and possibly an audit. The IRS has been known to track down these types of tax preparers, simply by identifying returns with multiple errors!
Block Advisors is one company whose tax professionals go through annual, rigorous training to make sure every return is done correctly, the first time. As a small business owner, I know what it’s like to receive a thick envelope from the IRS with a list of errors made on a return or report, and it’s not a lot of fun to track down old receipts or other forms of evidence in order to avoid penalties.
3. Look for a tax professional who works year-round.
If you own even a very small business, you will no doubt have questions throughout the year about such things as medical expenses, the part-time jobs your kids pick up, and what receipts must be kept and for how long. When I helped a group of homeschoolers set up a co-op last fall, I was shocked by how many tax regulations we had to follow, and I had plenty of questions.
When you choose someone, or a company, to handle your tax returns, be sure they will be available to answer your questions throughout the year. With more than 280 offices around the country, by Block Advisors is available year-round, both for actual tax preparation as well as advice and even help with small business tasks, such as payroll and bookkeeping.
4. Choose someone who is a good listener and wants to get to know you.
Your income, expenses, circumstances, and family are unique in the world. A tax adviser should be willing to spend time getting to know you, your financial obligations, and your sources of income. With my blog business, not every tax expert out there is familiar with the various tax rules and laws that govern the specifics of what I do. Your tax adviser should be detail oriented, should ask lots of questions, and show a desire to work with you year-round and customize their services to your needs.
5. Flexibility is important
When our kids were in their baby and toddler stages, it meant a lot to me if our tax professional could come to our home or if they had flexible office hours. My husband had a crazy work schedule with his own business and sometimes, I just wanted to gather together all our receipts and dump them off for our tax person to organize!
Look for a company or a tax pro who is willing to work with your schedule. Do keep in mind that during the final few weeks leading up to April 15, the tax filing deadline, their lives will be completely insane!
6. When it comes to tax prep, cheaper isn’t better.
Go ahead and pinch pennies by buying store-brand toilet paper and stocking up in the dollar store, but with tax preparation, cheaper is not better. I pay a little extra for certain things just so I’ll have peace of mind. Our tax adviser has been a God-send, although probably not the cheapest one in town. I’ll never forget the year that we owed quite a bit in taxes and she called us to go over, once again, all our expenses and deductions. That one phone call alone saved us plenty of money to keep in our pockets, rather than paying to Uncle Sam.
When hiring a tax pro, be sure to clarify exactly what you’re paying for and what services you will be receiving. Just as it’s no fun to get a “Surprise!” from Uncle Sam, you don’t want one from your tax adviser, either!
7. Hire a tax professional who knowsthe IRS.
IRS tax auditors are among the most despised professions in the country. If you’re ever audited or if an IRS agent shows up at your door, you’ll want a tax professional who will be there for you, someone who has worked with the IRS, understands their system, and yet, is on your side. At that moment, you’ll be grateful that you hired the best and most knowledgeable professional around.
A hallmark of Block Advisors is their commitment to be there for you if the IRS ever does reach out and touch you with questions, requests for documentation, etc. Whoever you hire, ask what type of support you’ll receive if your return is flagged for an audit and what happens if your return contains errors.
Life is never stress-free and right around tax time, stress levels peak! If you’ve wondered if you really are getting the biggest refund possible, if you’re not sure whether or not you can deduct certain expenses, and, especially, if you have any type of business, large or small, I recommend finding a tax professional who is well trained. In the last several years, the IRS has hired thousands of new agents and will be enforcing fines related to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. This may be the year that hiring a tax pro becomes a necessity, not a luxury.
Disclaimer: Block Advisors asked me to review their services and write this article, related to tax preparation. I was compensated for the time spent researching and writing this piece. As a small business owner, I believe in hiring a tax professional to avoid errors and over-paying taxes.