6 Things to Keep in Mind When Filing Your 2015 Taxes

Shortly after we usher in the New Year, we begin another (not so celebratory) season; tax filing. This year, the IRS officially began accepting paper and electronic 2015 tax returns on January 19. Though there have been no radical changes to the tax code in recent years, there are some things to be aware of as you file your return this year: 2015 Tax Season

It is best to Start Gathering Documents Early: Even if you expect to owe money this year and do not plan to file until closer to the deadline, it is never too early to start organizing your paperwork. Collect all your W2s, 1099s, receipts and other paperwork, and keep all the information in an easily accessible file. This makes things go smoother, and gives you additional time to track down important information that may be missing.

Cyber-Security is a Growing Concern: Last year, cyber-criminals stole the data of over 100,000 taxpayers. This breach exposed some weaknesses in the IRS computer systems that needed to be addressed. This year, the IRS has increased its budget for cyber-security, and it believes it has a handle on the problem. For the average taxpayer, the new measures mean increased password security, and slightly more difficulty with e-filing and accessing your electronic records.

IRS Customer Service Remains Poor: Budget cuts in recent years have forced the IRS to cut staff. This has led to longer wait times and fewer taxpayers being able to speak with a customer service representative when they call. The IRS did receive a $290 million increase in funding for their budget last year, and they plan to devote some of that to enhanced customer service. This, however, is not likely to fully resolve the poor customer service issues they have had in recent years.

The Number of Audits is Unlikely to Increase from Last Year: Because of low funding and the need to devote resources to cyber-security and customer service, the IRS lacks the manpower to significantly increase tax compliance enforcement. In fact, if anything, the number of audits in 2016 will probably be less than last year (though no one outside the agency ever knows for sure). In addition, the majority of compliance enforcement in recent years has been dedicated to cracking down on wealthy Americans hiding money in foreign bank accounts. Though the risk of an audit may be lower, it is still a highly unpleasant experience if you are unlucky enough to be chosen. For this reason, it is best to be sure all your paperwork is in order in the event of a worst case scenario.

The Tax Filing Deadline is Changed Slightly this Year: Taxpayers will receive a little bit of a break this year in that the filing deadline has been moved from the traditional date of April 15 to Monday April 18. The reason for this change is that Emancipation Day, a holiday celebrated in the District of Columbia, is being observed on Friday April 15. Normally, Emancipation Day falls on April 16; however, when April 16 falls on a Saturday, the holiday is observed on the previous day.

Accounting Firms tend to be Busier as We Approach the Deadline: Most taxpayers need a little extra help filing their returns to ensure they are in full compliance while maximizing their tax savings. If you need help from a local accounting firm, keep in mind that the sooner you get started, the better. Tax accountants become very busy by mid-March, and if you wait until late March or the beginning of April to bring your information in, it may be difficult to have your return ready by the deadline.

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