HERE IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR 2020 TAX RETURNS COMPLETED BY TELEPHONE
* FOR A SINGLE EXCEPTION TO THIS POLICY CONCERNING DONATIONS OF MONEY, PLEASE CLICK 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.
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 bought, sold or refinanced real property, click here!
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 SEND 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 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 year's 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.