Well, it’s November. That means fall is here. That means we’re in the 11th hour, or rather the 11th month, and that means it’s time to start taking stock of what 2018 was and what you can do to prepare for your accounting needs. Yes, we know you hate for us to say it, but it’s time for “tax planning.” Most of us will be busy with Thanksgiving and then the Holiday rush of December, but between the Thanksgiving and Holiday responsibilities, the smart people focus on getting their tax houses in order.
Here are some tips from us as you plan for the end-of-the-year tax rush. First, focus on your record keeping. We need good records to prepare your taxes. So touch base with your employer and make sure that they have your correct name, social security number, and physical address so when their computer spits out your W-2, it goes to the right address. Do this as well for your spouse and any dependents who may have jobs as well. Nothing is more frustrating than having to hold up your taxes because your W2’s are “lost in the mail” only to find out you had the wrong address. Other records that can be important are bank statements, investment or 401K statements, stock options, tax payments for property taxes, etc. Inventory everything that’s out there when it comes to taxes, and get them in order. Again, you’ll be ahead of the game in January if you’ve done your record-keeping homework today.
Second, look at what you can move forward or backwards to minimize taxes. This gets a little complicated, but in a nutshell if you think that your income in 2018 is going to be substantially HIGHER than in 2019, you want to move expenses INTO 2018 and more profits or wages INTO 2019. If you think your income in 2018 is going to be substantially LOWER in 2018 than in 2019, the reverse is true. You can advance charitable contributions, for example, or if you are self-employed you can often push expenses in your business into one year and/or into the next. We can meet with you now in November or December to take a look at your situation and give detailed advice. Third, and related to this, look at your estimated tax payments. If you are employed, look at your withholding and check with your accountant to make sure that you have withheld enough to avoid a penalty. If you pay quarterly, look at your quarterly payments and make sure that you’ve paid enough to avoid a pesky penalty. And if you have both W2 and investment or business income you can use your W2 withholding to avoid penalties. Consult with our office if you have this type of a situation.
Fourth, if you don’t have an accountant or you don’t like the one that you do have, start shopping around. Let us let you in on a little secret. We hate procrastinators! We know people procrastinate but our industry is one with an insane April, and we can’t do much to help you if you wait until April to contact us. The early bird gets the worm as they say, and we’re eager now (November or December, that is) to work with new clients. So call us and come in for a consultation. We don’t like surprises, and we don’t like waiting to the last minute. What we do like is organized record-keeping and tax strategies that minimize your California, federal, and any local taxes in a smart way.