Being prepared can help tax season go smoother

MARSHALL — The start of the new year is also the start of tax season, and people around the country will be getting ready to file income tax returns for 2017. While filing taxes is a process that can be different depending on individual taxpayers’ situations, there are some basic tips that can help make it easier, local tax professionals said.

Gathering together important tax documents and information is one way to help prepare for tax season. Nathan Kinner, certified public accountant at Kinner & Company, said he recommends setting up a folder for tax documents and information by mid to late January, although some tax forms may not come in the mail that soon.

“Generally, the more complex a person’s tax return, the later some of that will start to come in,” Kinner said. However, it’s good to get your tax documents and information together when they do start to arrive.

“Start collecting your documents as they come in the mail,” said Adam Pearson, enrolled agent at Vander Ziel Tax and Accounting in Marshall. Examples of important documents include IRS forms that report income, like W-2 forms, investment income forms, and Social Security forms. People who are enrolled in a health plan through MNsure will also receive a 1095-A form that will be needed for filing taxes, Pearson said.

There may be other information that will be helpful to have when you’re preparing to file taxes, Pearson and Kinner said.

“It depends a lot on your situation,” he said. For example, a person who bought or sold a house in the past year would want to have a copy of the closing statement. Information related to a person’s business or investments, or to major life changes like marriage or retirement, is also important.

Information related to tax deductions, like charitable contributions, or receipts from purchasing school supplies, is helpful to have as well, Kinner said.

One way to help figure out what you need in order to prepare your taxes this spring is to look at the past year’s tax statement, Kinner said.

“That is your best guide,” he said.

Kinner said it’s also important to keep track of all your sources of income over the past year. One-time income like an inheritance, or stock transactions that don’t happen every day, can be easy to overlook.

“The number one issue people have with the IRS is forgetting some source of income,” Kinner said.

There are some important dates to keep in mind when filing taxes, Kinner and Pearson said. The IRS can’t issue tax refunds for returns that claimed the Earned Income Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit before the middle of February, so people eager to receive their refunds early should keep that in mind, Kinner said.

This year, the deadline to file federal income taxes is April 17. Farmers have an earlier deadline of March 1, if they have taxes due, Kinner said.

Depending on how complex their situations are, taxpayers may want to consider working with a tax professional when filing their income taxes, Pearson and Kinner said. People whose taxes are more complicated — for example, if they own a business, work multiple jobs, or have a lot of investments — it’s helpful to work with a tax professional, Kinner said.