Five Smart Questions to Ask at Tax Time

While there’s no guarantee that you will receive a tax refund this year, there are steps you can take at this time of year that could not only potentially lower your tax bill but also enhance your overall financial situation. Doing your taxes yourself may not result in the biggest refund or the best possible financial situation. The tax experts at the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (MSCPA) recommend you reach out to a CPA to get the best results. Once you make that decision to invest in your financial future, here are the top questions to ask your CPA at tax time:

1. What Do You Need From Me?
If you’ve been collecting receipts and financial statements in a shoebox throughout the year, now’s the time to sort through them so that your information is well organized when you meet with your CPA. This step won’t take a direct bite out of your tax bill, but it will make it more likely that you or your CPA can spot money-saving opportunities. Try to categorize your documents into groups such as business vs. personal expense receipts, or statements of investment vs. earned income. If possible, add up the amounts in each category so that you can give your CPA an overall summary. This advance organization will prevent repeated trips to bring your CPA newly discovered information. Equally important, it will help to give your CPA the best handle on your financial situation, so that he or she can identify deductions or other tax-advantaged opportunities you may have missed.

2. Are there Any Special Ways I Can Save on Taxes this Year?
Talk to your CPA about major projects, purchases or investments you’ve been involved in during the past year to find out if any of them trigger tax advantages. Your CPA can tell you whether you qualify for this and other money-saving credits or deductions.

3. What Should I Do Now to Save on Taxes Next Year?
Did you qualify for all the deductions available to you? Could you be paying less in taxes? Your CPA can analyze your return and tell you what changes might help you to lower your bill in the future. For example, are you contributing the full allowable amount to a retirement savings plan? If not, you may be missing out on some significant tax advantages. You are also giving up the chance to get a head start on what could grow to be a significant nest egg when you’re ready to retire. Unlike other tax services, CPAs are available all year long to help with your most complicated financial questions.

4. How Can I Get a Big Refund?
Refunds sound like good news, but if you expect to receive a large one this year, that may be a sign that you’re having too much withheld from your paycheck. Refunds are really money the government has been holding on to that you could have been using yourself during the year. Ask your CPA about whether adjustments to your withholding or estimated payments are called for.

5. How Else Can A CPA Help Me?
Taxes are just one small piece of the financial puzzle, but the time you spend thinking about your finances at tax time can help identify smart changes you should be making in how you manage your money. Remember that your local CPA has the expertise to help with all your financial questions. Turn to him or her when you want the advice you need to make smart financial decisions.

Lauren A. Carnes, CPA, MST

About Lauren A. Carnes, CPA, MST

Lauren joined the firm in 1988 and became a principal in 1997. Lauren has extensive experience with corporate and individual tax planning, financial planning and in representation with government agencies. She currently directs our tax department overseeing services in most areas including corporate and individual taxation.



Lauren A. Carnes, CPA, MST
Author: Lauren A. Carnes, CPA, MST
Lauren joined the firm in 1988 and became a principal in 1997. Lauren has extensive experience with corporate and individual tax planning, financial planning and in representation with government agencies. She currently directs our tax department overseeing services in most areas including corporate and individual taxation.