HOW DO I PREPARE FOR A STOCKTON OFFICE CONFERENCE?

COVID-19 ADAPTATIONS

We are only permitted to conduct in-person appointments because tax preparation is considered an essential business. This is because filing tax returns is a mandatory compliance activity.  

Be aware, however, that at any time the state may require that we discontinue physical office appointments and conduct them remotely. 

We will have sanitizer available at our front door, and the office environment will be sanitized between each client appointment, including desk and chair surfaces. We also will have sanitized pens available to use for signatures which will not be used more than once before being cleaned.     

INSTRUCTIONS AND CHECKLIST OF ITEMS TO BRING

CLICK HERE FOR A MAP OF OUR STOCKTON LOCATION

  1. For 2021 (your 2020 tax returns), the base fee for an office appointment in Stockton is $495. Again, this is a base fee. Please look at our fee schedule for costs in addition to the base fee. Additional fees are charged for rentals, businesses, certain forms and certain services.

 

  1. We also want you to be aware that clients who are unprepared at the time of their appointment and as a result require substantial additional follow-up time will be charged a minimum extra fee of $100 at the time of payment. Please be prepared and be on time. Click HERE for further details as to exactly what we mean by unprepared.

 

 

  1. The tax returns will be completed by Certified Tax Specialist attorney Tim Kelly. Furthermore, if you have any tax questions relating to individual income tax during the year, simply send us an email and ask. There is never any additional charge for a simple question by email concerning a tax return which we were paid to prepare, unless we have to conduct reasearch or do a more complex analysis. All non-criminal legal services up to, but not including, the filing of a court case are included with only a nominal co-pay (see our fees). This policy covers all routine audits including undocketed appeals (but see the conditions of representation on the cover page of your tax return to understand your rights and obligations for this coverage). We will always be available anytime during the year by email should you need advice on a covered matter.

 

  1. As required by our professional liability insurance carrier, all new matters (for example, different years, different people or different entities) will require a new attorney-client agreement be established. Our carrier also requires that we respond to most inquiries in writing rather than give advice over the phone.
  1. Generally, you receive a copy of your completed tax returns at the conclusion of your appointment. However, because of rampant identity theft, if it becomes necessary to send you a copy of any documents such as your tax returns, we will send them to you via secure, encrypted link from our client portal (called SmartVault) in an email or at your request, for an extra $10, a paper copy via Priority Mail with delivery confirmation. Please note that payment of our fees will be required before tax returns are sent, and signed electronic filing forms must be returned to us before we are allowed by the IRS to electronically file the returns. The electronic returns are very secure and will be stored in our secure client portal. Your documents will be accessible to you at any time without having to contact our office.

 

  1. Our client portal is very secure, and uses bank-level encryption, so uploading confidential information securely is not a problem. We absolutely cannot guarantee physical security if you insist on not using our portal, and instead use standard email, fax, or worse of all, mailing documents through the postal service. In addition, we will not guarantee documents mailed to us will result in an on-time filing. Since we are providing a secure environment through our client portal, call Smartvault, we will assume no responsibility for documents sent to us any other way. Over the years, we have horror stories of clients who ignored our warnings, and mailed documents to us, even using Certified Mail, which never arrived at our office. Another thing to realize is that we do not have an office staff and do not keep regular hours. So anything you send which requires our signature may never be sucessfully delivered and will be returned to you.

 

  1. It is very important you are aware of our fees before engaging our services. Especially for clients with self employment income who have incurred large business losses, and who may believe our fees will be the same as a prior year where these losses were not present or were much smaller. If you believe you may fall into this category we ask you to look at the business fees here and determine what we may charge you.  The chances of an audit of any given tax return rise exponentially as the business loss amount rises, and our fees also rise very fast and very high. This is because we will represent you in an audit with only a nominal co-pay, and the value of these services may easily range from $5000 to $25,000 or more in a complex business audit. So if you feel our fees are too high, being aware of our rates in advance will allow you to find a tax preparer who will charge you what you feel is a more reasonable rate. We really want our clients to be happy, so we try to have there be no surprises. Click here for a full disclosure of our fee structure.
  2. We do not “farm out” or delegate the preparation of our final product. If you have any simple tax questions during the year relating to the tax return we completed for you, simply email and ask. There is never any additional charge as long as your question is related to this return unless we are required to do more complex work or analysis. All non-criminal legal services up to, but not including, the point where a judicial action is initiated, are also covered for a small additional co-pay as set forth in our fee schedule. We will charge for legal questions unrelated to the tax returns we have completed for you at our regular hourly rate of $450/hr with a half hour minimum.
  3. An important item to double check is the routing number and account number to be used for direct deposit.

  1. If you are eligible (and most everyone is) we will file your returns electronically as soon as you approve the return by signing and returning the electronic filing forms, such as IRS Form 8879 or California Form 8879. You have the option to have any refund due direct deposited in the account of your choosing. We will need the bank routing number and the account number. The best way to obtain the correct numbers is to read them off of a check. Do not use a deposit slip. Using another source for the numbers may cause a problem, resulting in refund payments defaulting to a check in the mail.

 

CHECKLIST OF REQUIRED INFORMATION FOR

FILING WITH AN OFFICE CONFERENCE

    Please have payment ready at the appointment, since we will not release the tax returns until full payment is made. Our fees  may be seen here. If the final fees exceed the amount already paid we will contact you.

      We have a secure client payment portal, and accept Master Card, Visa, American Express and Discovery.

    Payment will be required prior to the release of any tax returns.SECURELY MAKE A PAYMENT HERE

     If you are a new client, a complete copy of the previous year’s return is very important. In particular, be sure to include any depreciation schedules, so as to ensure continuity on the preparation of your return.

    In describing any deduction, NEVER use the phrase “same as last year.” The IRS has recently sanctioned tax professionals who have done this because taxpayers must have independent substantiation for each year.

    There is no longer a requirement under federal law to prove you and your dependents are covered by health insurance. Unfortunately, if you are a California resident you are now subject to the requirement to prove to the state you are covered by healthcare insurance. Consequently the same forms as required in the past, either a 1095-A or a 1095-B are required. The Form 1095-C is not used for this purpose. Of special importance is the Form 1095-A, since if you received any kind of subsidy from the governent for your healthcare insurance you will still be required to reconcile the subsidy with your income.

    If you are a public safety, educational, small business/self-employed or medical professional, complete and bring the appropriate professional deduction checklist. Or, if none of these apply, use our general checklist to provide us with your important information along with copies of the required documents listed below.

     If you have a rental, look at our Rental Property Information and use the Rental Checklist. Failure to use this checklist may result in additional fees and/or a delay.

     If you bought, sold or refinanced real property, click here!

     If you have a sole proprietorship business, look at our business information use our business checklist. Failure to use this checklist may result in additional fees and/or a delay.

    If you received compensation, either directly or through a cash-out, in an alternative form, including, but not limited to incentive stock options(ISO), non qualified stock options(NQSO), restricted stock, restricted stock units(RSU), an employee stock purchase plan (ESPP) or an employee stock option purchase plan (ESOP) then be sure to include all relevant documents, including those provided by the employer as guidance for determining tax consequences. The final pay statement of the year is also useful in this regard.

     The settlement statement for any real property transactions (this statement is also called a HUD-1)

    If you were involved in a foreclosure or short sale, bring any Forms 1099-A or Forms 1099-C you have received. In addition BE SURE TO BRING THE COMPLETED PROPERTY TRANSACTION ANALYSIS FORM. Get this Form Here. Without this form we cannot complete your tax return. If possible, send this form in advance as it may be very time consuming and cause a delay in finalizing your tax returns.

     Notify us if your bank account information for any direct deposit of refunds has changed from last year.

     Any brokers statements, labeled Form 1099-B, detailing sales of securities (including mutual funds or stocks). This form may also be part of what is referred to as a "consolidated Form 1099." If you have one of these statements, it is important you read the document at this link concerning the basis of any securities. Failing to be prepared for this could result in a delay of the completion of your tax return and an additional fee for our extra time.

     The date of birth and social security number for new children or other new dependents (such as a parent). If you are a new client, then we will obtain the social security numbers for other children from the prior year tax returns. We will still need the dates of birth of all dependents because this information will not be found on a prior year tax return.

      All Forms 1098 (mortgage interest paid or student loan interest paid).

      If you pay all or a portion of your own property taxes, we need the annual total. Please do not use a single tax bill for this purpose, as in California and some other states property taxes are paid on fiscal years, so that to determine what was paid in 2020, for example, you have to add the second installment of the 2019-2020 tax bill to the first installment of the 2020-2021 tax bill. You deduct property tax when it is actually paid during 2020 and not when it is due. Supplemental property tax paid during 2020 is also deductible. If property taxes are paid by a lender through an impound account, then we do not need copies of any tax bill for that property.

     If you pay interest on a second home, but do not receive a Form 1098 (common with boats, timeshares and motorhomes), we need the name, address and taxpayer identification number (EIN) of the lender along with the amount of interest paid.

     All W-2’s (salary and wages) and Forms 1099-Rs (retirement distributions). If you received a Form 1099-R reporting a Roth distribution, and you see Code J in Box #7, this means the IRS will assume it is all taxable unless you have records as to how much money you contributed to the account. This will require research before the appointment or there will be a delay!

      If you are a retired public safety officer (fire, police, sheriff, federal law enforcement, CHP or CDCR peace officer) you are entitled to exclude (deduct) up to $3000 of medical premiums from your retirement pay IF these premiums are deducted directly from a retirement account. This will not apply if you are paying the premiums directly. If the premiums are being paid from a municipal trust however, (examples are Berkeley PD and Union City PD) this will apply.

     Amounts spent on childcare – including the name, address, telephone number and tax identification number (TIN) of the child care provider (this information is required to obtain these tax benefits). If your provider refuses to give you a tax identification number you will be unable to obtain this credit electronically. You will then have to explain to the IRS why this information was unavailable and then give the IRS as much information as possible about the child care provider.

     Educational expenses paid for you, a spouse or your dependents and grants or scholarships received. Be sure to include tuition and fees paid with student loans, as these are considered to be paid out of your pocket. Also indicate whether the education is for the first two years of post-secondary education or a later period. A Form 1098-T will be required in order to claim any educational benefit such as a deduction or a credit. If not mailed to you, this form is almost always available online in the concerned student's account access at the school. And be careful to report the amount actually paid during calendar year 2020, rather than the amount billed by the educational institution. This has become a heavily audited issue due to extensive reports of abuse.

     Advise us if you funded a traditional or a Roth IRA during the year and how much was contributed.

     The amount and name of the charity to which any donations of property were made. We are warning you now, that to support these deductions in the event of an audit you must have an itemized list of what was donated, the value of these items, and the source of the value. If this is used property, use low end values unless you have evidence supporting a higher value. If you donated a vehicle, and the charity sold the vehicle for more than $500, bring the Form 1098-C the charity should have issued. A copy of this form must be sent to the government or the vehicle donation will be limited to $500.

     Bring with you any acknowledgment letters, pay statements and receipts showing the amount of any cash, check, or payroll deducted charitable contributions. Remember receipts/canceled checks are now specifically required by statute to substantiate cash donations. There is no longer such a thing as “cash in the collection basket,” unless the cash is in a numbered envelope accounted for by the church or charity. We need to see the actual proof of these donations to ensure the documents are supportable in the face of the current IRS enforcement policy. In addition, we are now personally subject to sanctions for reporting charitable contributions on a tax return we prepare if these deductions cannot be supported under audit.

    Raffle tickets, even for a charitable purpose are not deductible. The IRS and the Tax Court view raffle tickets as the purchase of a chance rather than as a donation. For items purchased at a charity auction, or for crab feeds, or for charity golf tournaments you may only deduct money paid which is more than the value of the items or services received. Political donations are never deductible for California residents. Charitable contributions to, or for a specific individual, or groups of individuals, are never deductible. The organization must be listed as a qualified charity on the IRS website in order to be deductible. CLICK HERE for the IRS online tool to verify Qualified Charity status.

     The amount of deductible DMV fees paid. This is only the portion of the DMV fees labeled as “vehicle license fees” and not any other part of the overall DMV registration cost. Smog fees and drivers license fees are not deductible.

     Any other tax documents not covered above or an explanation of special circumstances (death, inheritance, adoption, divorce, marriage, etc. relevant to your tax status.

    Public safety, educational, self-employed/small business or medical professionals, use the current 2019 checklist and read the comments carefully. These employee expenses are no longer deductible under federal law, but remain deductible for your California tax returns.

     THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH NOW ONLY APPLIES TO CALIFORNIA TAX RETURNS AS THESE DEDUCTIONS HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED FOR FEDERAL TAX PURPOSES! Another common, and very substantial expense, is for employment related-education. The IRS has become extremely aggressive in this area because of the size of the deductions. Tuition to the University of Phoenix or the Union Institute can run tens of thousands of dollars, so the IRS is enforcing the very specific letter of the law in these areas. In order to be job related, an educational expense must maintain or improve skills of your current job, not a potential future job. In addition, the education cannot be the minimum required for a position, and cannot qualify you for a new trade or business, even if you have no intention of actually pursuing a new trade or business. Therefore taking criminal justice management courses when you are not yet a manager will be disallowed. Going to law school will be disallowed. Obtaining a basic teaching credential or upgrading to registered nurse are educational expenses which will be disallowed based on these guidelines. The connection to your present job must be clear. The only way to really prove this effectively is with a letter from your employer explaining that the education was in fact related to your present occupation. In addition, ensure you only deduct expenses actually paid during the year to the educational institution, rather than what was billed.