Tax Preparation & Filing Made Simple

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Tax season is here! Time to panic over lost receipts, missing information on cost bases for stocks, and 1099s that won’t ever show up; or, time to spend an afternoon with your CPA; or, click a few buttons on your computer keyboard? It all depends on how organized you’ve been and how well you've prepared throughout the year, not just in April. Below are a few tips for how to reduce your tax-related paperwork, now and in the future.

Meet with a CPA This is by far the easiest way to take the tax filing burden off your shoulders. CPAs file people’s taxes for a living, so you can trust that they know all the tricks and traps. Save yourself time and hassle by asking friends, colleagues or family for a referral.

E-File If you do not wish to use an accountant, you can find a variety of simple and user-friendly e-filing programs online. Many of them are free, as long as your income is below certain limits. Save yourself some wrestling with your printer and a trip to the post office by filing online.

The Manila Folder Throughout the year, you will need to save documents such as receipts and transaction reports from your investment accounts. Whenever you receive one of these documents, stick it in a labeled manila folder. If you're paperless, create a folder on your computer for the same purpose.

Take Advantage of IRA Accounts Saving in IRA accounts will save you heaps of paperwork, as this eliminates the need to track cost basis and sales price for each security, and include these in your tax report. Once the money is in your traditional IRA or 401(k), it is off your tax record until you start to make withdrawals, at retirement. In case of a Roth IRA, you never have to worry about it again!

Take the Standard Deduction True, many people save a lot of money by itemizing . . . but it does require both time and effort. If your objective is to keep things simple, take the standard deduction. However, it is usually worth it to itemize. It could save you a lot of money.

Filing your taxes is never fun – unless, of course, you are expecting a huge refund! Use these tricks to simplify your tax filing process and minimize the time you need to spend in your home office, shuffling paperwork.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Taxes: How Much Should You Withhold?

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

With only weeks to go before the arrival of my daughter, I go to a great deal of routine checkups. Fortunately, my doctor’s office is an efficient one, and I rarely have to wait for more than ten minutes. Yesterday, the other mother-to-be in the waiting room was quite chatty. Upon learning that I am a financial planner, she told me all about her savings strategy. She claims zero dependents even though she is the main breadwinner in her marriage and has a son. Consequently, every spring she receives a huge tax refund. She splits the money evenly between vacations and her savings account.

While it can be a major relief to receive a check rather than a bill from the IRS, her strategy has one drawback: in essence, she is granting the IRS an interest-free loan. If she would claim the correct number of dependents, she would keep a larger portion of her paycheck every month, and thus be able to invest the money earlier and start to make returns.

But before you slash your withholdings altogether to reverse the situation, so that you get an interest-free loan from the IRS, note that paying far too little taxes throughout the year can easily result in a $20,000 – or even a $50,000 – tax bill, enough to give the healthiest amongst us a stroke!

So what’s the golden number? Opt for the middle of the road, so that in the spring you get neither a terrifying bill nor a huge refund. That way, you safeguard yourself from financial panic and make the most out of your investment capital.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Save Money on Taxes

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Tax refunds are finally here! While I didn’t receive one myself (people in my business rarely do), many of my clients did, and many chose wisely – they decided to invest at least part of the money. In order to help you score a refund (or if you get a refund, to help you get more next year), here are a few things you may not know you can deduct.

  1. College tuition expenses. As long as you’ve kept the receipts from your payments and the school is bona fide, you can save quite a lot this way

  2. Charitable donations. This deduction is not just available for the organizations that pop up toward the end of your filing when using FreeTaxUSA, but it applies to a wide range of causes and organizations. Find one that makes your heart beat a little faster, and save yourself money while saving the whales.

  3. Car mileage and expenses. The many of you who commute to your place of employment can feel a little better about all that money you burned at the pump.

  4. Out-of-pocket medical expenses. Had to go to the emergency room, and had a fallout with your insurance company about eligibility? You are not alone, and now you can get some of your money back – hopefully easing the pain a little.

  5. In certain situations, you can deduct numerous expenses related to job hunting. So if you are sending our resumes and interviewing, don’t toss your receipts!

  6. Childcare is, thankfully, many times tax deductible.

While this list is far from complete, it should provide you with a nice starting point for paying less taxes.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.