Small business owners always have alot on their minds. The list of frightening “what if” questions with unknown answers could fill library after library, wall to wall, floor to ceiling. The cold truth of our capitalism is that there is immense risk in entrepreneurship and each of us has heard the stories or even seen friends fall flat on their enterprising faces. The business owner is pulled in opposite directions by multiple responsibilities; vendors, employees, regulatory agencies, and of course government tax collectors. And those are just the owner’s responsibilities at work!
Understanding this, has given the Internal Revenue Service the opportunity, over several years, to build this mystique of being the heavy-handed government bureau that demands fear from the “ordinary folks”. Some of the most common concerns we hear are “I just don’t want to be audited” or “I just need to keep the IRS off my back so I can run this business”. Fear of the Service causes many different reactions in taxpayers but IRS influence on business decisions cannot be overstated. Owners worry and stress, lose sleep and sometimes make poor decisions because they fear being targeted by federal agents.
Our aim, one of the things in which we take a great amount of pride, is to help our clients relax. We cannot promise that our clients will never be audited. In fact, this administration seems to want the size and reach of the IRS to grow continually (digression, I apologize). However, Signet clients can rest in the fact that they will never face examination alone. Have no fear.
There is an abundance of noise surrounding the current epidemic of identity theft. Warnings to protect your personal information are everywhere and there is even an entire new industry of credit monitoring services that actually are pretty worthwhile. With all of the chatter comes a general awareness by most consumers and an over-arching skepticism about anyone requesting anything that could possibly lead to their federal ID number. This is a positive development and you should not be ashamed of guarding that information. However, it seems that the mystical aura surrounding the Internal Revenue Service causes some of these cautious consumers to sing like canaries when they receive any type of communication from the tax police. At Signet, we believe in communicating and cooperating fully with the appropriate federal and state taxing authorities. But, new schemes designed to get your personal information are popping up where digital thieves disguise their electronic communication with fake IRS letterhead and threatening legalese. In fear and intimidation, some taxpayers have handed over the keys to their financial kingdoms. Our advice: “Don’t do that”. Here are some guidelines about IRS communications:
- The Service never asks for your personal information (unless you contact them). If an email or letter requests you to verify your information, do not respond to the letter and call Signet.
- The Service does not send communication with taxpayers via email. If they want to talk with a taxpayer, they will send letters through the mail. If you receive an email from the IRS, do not respond, do not open any attachment, do not open any links in the email and call Signet.
Here is a guideline you should follow: If you receive any correspondence whatsoever from any federal, state, or local taxing authority, contact Signet (or your chosen tax professional, I guess) immediately. We will know what to do.
Have you seen the commercial from H&R Block with the lady who “did her own taxes” the previous year? She apparently partook in the “Second Look” program they offer and they were able to “find” more than $5000 that she had “missed”. I have 2 problems with this:
- What was this lady doing? Did she get her basset hound to review her return before filing the first time? Make no mistake, the American individual tax rules are voluminous and certain deductions or credits could easily be overlooked (a good reason for having a professional tax preparer) but a variance of five grand means, at best, she just wasn’t paying attention. Regardless of this taxpayer’s possible carelessness, her situation lends credence to our claim that you really should not be doing your own taxes.
- This “program” seems a little disingenuous of the Block folks. The truth is that most tax preparers (including Signet) already offer this service free of charge without having to advertise that it is being done. This can be filed under the heading of “doing our job”. This advertising campaign and operational program are their way of taking credit for something they should be doing anyway. Would the good people at Coca-Cola say “We’ve double-checked our bottles to make sure there are no protruding shards of glass”? What if our friends at General Motors wanted to take credit for making sure the brakes worked on every GM model before shipping it off to the dealer?
So, for the record, we at Signet will review your previous years’ tax returns for free. We also double check our math, abstain from littering and brush our teeth a few times a day.
Due to the delayed efile processing timeline imposed by the Internal Revenue Service after the U.S. congress took her sweet time setting guidelines for the 2010 tax year, the Internal Revenue Service, this week, was forced to request private efile transmitters to “stagger their submission of returns throughout the week”. In the industry, everyone saw this coming; everyone except The Service, apparently. In only the latest lapse in a very long, sad history of lapses, the government agency in charge of overseeing the administration of the payment of federal income taxes could not properly function because of the volume of submissions received on the exact date they were supposed to receive all of the return submissions. Predictably, absolutely no one in the industry complied with this request.
In all fairness, The Service was put in a near impossible situation by our elected representatives in Washington but we at Signet never miss an opportunity to take a swipe at the IRS.
So, we ask our clients and all taxpayers to please be patient as these agents try to play catch up. We expect delays of a few days (or weeks).
This time of year, you are bound to hear all manner of ridiculous claims about having your taxes done for free. The big box retail tax guys will trip over themselves trying to entice millions of taxpayers to switch from the competitor. From all the creative games of the “refund anticipation loans” to wild promises of cash in your pocket, there is no shortage of bait to get the ”savings conscious” taxpayer in the door. Most of these claims are, what we call in the business, “horse manure”. The claim to file your tax return for free, generally applies only to the 1040EZ (for which very few folks qualify) and then they upcharge for filing your state tax return in order to make up for the free offer. Be not deceived.
Here is a little truth bomb for you. At Signet, we prepare taxes to make money because we enjoy having things like food and homes. However, we offer some straightforward discounts to all of our clients that, when executed in combination, could mean that our services are on the house. Here’s a little detail:
Any new client who mentions that they heard about us through you will trigger a discount for you based upon the type of return:
- a 10% discount for all Online Tax Filing clients,
- a 20% discount for all full service personal returns,
- a 30% discount for all full service corporation or partnership returns, and
- a 10% discount for all returns of dependants.
We would love for our clients to take full advantage of these discount opportunities. Give us a call if you have any questions and fill out the referral form on the Signet website. We look forward to picking up the tab for your tax preparation just for telling all of your friends about us…
Joe Arsenault has some very good thoughts over at cafetax.com on things to consider when selecting a small business tax practice. I would second everything he said. Whether you are choosing a tax practice for your small business or your individual tax needs, take a few minutes to evaluate whether or not the relationship is a good “fit”.
“ Being a good tax man means you know how to get answers, it doesn’t mean they have them all.” Great stuff, Joe. Thanks for your thoughts.
Here at Signet, one of our favorite movies is, of course, Ghostbusters. In this most quotable film, the character of Louis (who would become Vinz Clortho, KeyMaster of Gozer) is a supernerd CPA. In one exchange with Dana Barrett, he gently reprimands her for self-preparation of her individual income tax return. Great line from a great scene from a great movie.
However, in reality, this exchange begs a serious question: “Why shouldn’t people do their own taxes?” General intelligence and ability have absolutely nothing to do with it but the gifted individuals we have elected to the United States Congress have seen fit to continue adding layer upon complex layer to an already overburdened tax code. It seems as if one needs an upper level accounting degree just to comply with the law and pay one’s taxes. Below is a short list of reasons for hiring a professional. We hope that professional is us.
- Preparing your tax return by hand is like trying to send astronauts to the moon using only the power required to run a small household appliance. It has been done before but a lot of bad things can happen if you try to do it again. Slight calculation errors and minor oversights can leave you with an April surprise (and not the good kind).
- Cookie cutter tax preparation software programs are not quite the panacea they profess to be. TurboTax and TaxAct are quality programs (if you you have very little complexity and if you already know what to look for and where certain items go on the return). These are designed for speed and simplicity and that is not always the best for you. Note: If you do want to take a shot at going it alone, check out Signet’s DIY feature. Go through the preparation and if you run into a question, let us know. Simple.
- Professional tax preparers (at least the good ones) will keep one eye on the future as they work through current figures. While walking a client through the current year tax return, we are constantly looking for ways to save that client money in the coming year(s). Some smart guy once said that failing to plan is planning to fail.
If you are wondering whether or not you should do your own taxes, you could quite possibly be just fine doing it yourself. On the other hand, you may want to give us a call just to make sure.
- We all love cheeseburgers. If you don’t love cheeseburgers, that’s a you problem. They are delish.
- We all enjoy helping people.
- We are all hopelessly in love with the Savior, Jesus Christ.
As we grow as a company, there may come a time when someone is hired who does not quite fall in line with all of these; and that is ok. But, for now, we are all bound, especially by the third trait listed. Each of our lives are devoted to the living Christ. In this, each tax return or financial statement is a form of worship that we humbly offer up. We stumble daily but it is our aim to bring renown to the name of Christ by the way be do business. These are not just numbers to us; each task is a meaningful sacrifice to the King of Kings.
If you have tax questions, we would love to sit with you and walk through them. However, we are far more interested in telling you more about the depths of the riches of God’s love for us. No charge.
There are very few industries that give the consumer as much choice as the tax preparation/accounting game. Every tax season, there are literally hundreds of tax shops scrounging for new business. They open up shop and throw some clown in a statue of liberty suit and direct him to dance in front of the store. Apparently, this is what passes for advertising. You’ll hear claims of being able to “walk in with your W2 and walk out with $50″. At the other end of the spectrum are the stuffy nerd “professional” accountants equipped with their “professional” billing rates. Here’s what makes Signet different:
- None of our staffers wear costumes. We don’t gimmick. If you want “silly”, go to the circus.
- We know what we are doing without having to read prescribed questions off of a computer screen. A talented 8 year old can read from a screen. If your tax situation is simple and you like saving cash, hit our website and the DIY feature. Better and more convenient than TurboTax. We can even review your work if you would like. If there are things about your income tax that give you some anxiety, let us do all the prep. You’ll sleep better. We’ll save you money.
- None of us wear cufflinks. We’ve had experience with CPA firms (in fact, several years of experience). The overwhelming push in the industry is to bill, bill, bill. Work 70 hours a week and squeeze the client for every penny. We got sick of it. Signet will do the work for a fair price. We don’t nickel and dime just to milk a few more dollars.
Give Signet a try. You’ll be refreshed by our style.
We’ve been working for quite a while, but now we’ve got a site and a blog!
To our existing clients: We are sincerely grateful for your loyalty and patience as we transitioned to a new level of service last year. Be assured that this year we will continue to serve you to the best of our ability, while expanding the features, products and services available to you.
To new and potential clients: We are excited to get to know you. Please know that our primary goal is to serve the tax and accounting needs of you and your business. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to see what we can do for you.