Monday, February 27, 2012

'Tis The Tax Season

I remember about 15 years ago listening to a sermon by Pastor Sam.  He said something that caused me to sit up straight and listen.  It was a very simple message.  If you are working for someone who is dishonest or has dishonest practices, then leave and find an honest job.  What and whom we associate with will form who we are.  I have learned over my many years that boundaries are vital, in our personal relationships as well as our business relationships.

Another friend and very wise person once said "be careful who you walk with, for those that are dirty will eventually explode into a million pieces and you will get dirty."

Well, it had taken me a year and half to find a full time job with one of these tax services.  I will not mention the name here, but what I saw and heard I knew was not good.  "Come on in" they would say, "we will get you the best tax refunds."  Preparers were given instruction to reduce self employment income or increase expenses or deductions to maximize tax credits.  I was not a preparer, but only a processor so I told myself that is not me.  Then the phone calls started rolling in from unhappy customers.  Those who said there was education credits on their return when they did not go to school.  Or dependents were taken off and other things substituted without their knowledge.  The fear in me just grew exponentially over night, to the point I felt paralyzed.

This past Saturday, I said, NO MORE.  Go out and find an honest job.  Even though I wasn't making those entries into tax returns I was at a place with dishonest practices.  PERIOD.  My pastor and my wise friend were right.  I cannot be associated with that sort of behavior.  I set my boundaries and resigned, effective immediately.  As a result of what I saw I want to point out things to watch for so that you will not become prey to those looking to make a quick tax preparer fee as you travel through the maze of tax preparation.

Number ONE and a very big ONE.  The taxpayer is responsible for everything in their return.  If there is something done improperly, credits taken or deductions/expenses unsupported, it is the taxpayer who will pay interest and penalties and perhaps face tax fraud charges.  So be aware of every entry to your return and make certain you have a copy of what was actually submitted (most often it is an electronic submission these days).  If the electronic submission is rejected by IRS, the tax preparer may decide to fix internally without ever contacting you.  That is okay if there is just a keypunch error they are correcting but not okay if they are juggling things in return without your make it look as though you have a refund similar to what you remember but not the same details as you provided at your meeting.

Beware of anyone who says they will get you the best deal.  Tax refunds and tax returns are not "deals" to be negotiated or tweaked.  They are, in fact, exactly what they are.  They are an historical accounting of what transpired financially in the prior year.  Nothing more and nothing less.

Never go to a preparer whose fees are a percentage of your refund.  They are definitely motivated to help themselves, possibly at your expense.  When filing a tax return, there are no contingency winnings, there are no risks to take.  Your return is exactly what your prior year economics spelled out to be.  Watch out for those who suggest you take "aggressive tax strategies".

Take a close look at your tax preparer.  Is this someone you would want representing you at the IRS should problems arise or a tax audit be required by IRS?

If the "tax office" feels sleazy, then it probably is sleazy.  You are not at a used car sales lot.  You are placing your most confidential information in the hands of somebody you most definitely need to be able to trust.  Protect yourself, put your sleaze antennas on, ask a lot of questions.  If they are evasive in their answers, or don't seem to have answers, that is a sign of someone not qualified to do your tax return preparation. 

In staying with the new title of my blog....Treasures of the Heart.  Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.  Only surround yourself with those who are honest and trustworthy in all of your dealings.  Be prudent and do your due diligence.  If you find yourself in a dishonest situation, remove yourself immediately.  While treasures of the heart refer to those things that are heavenly, how we live on earth really does spell out our priorities.