THE TAX ATTIC with Jerry Coon

Tax season is here, winter is not

Jerry Coon

Winter had to get here sooner or later. Usually, we get some of it, snow at least, during the deer season, but it didn’t happen this year. For the gun hunters, that lack of snow helped to make it a bit of a rough season. I think the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will conclude that about 20% less deer were harvested this year as compared to last year. That’s a lot of car-deer accidents waiting to happen over the next year.

The spring fishing might be real good this coming spring. Since there isn’t any ice so far, no fish are getting caught through the ice. If I remember right, the best ice fishing occurs during the first ice. There might not be any first ice this year, so that will leave lots of fish for us non-ice fishermen to catch later.

For the downhill snow skiers, the tubers, and the cross-country skiers, it has also been a bit of a tough season. Tough is not exactly the word the owners of various ski lodges might use. It has been a brutal season for them, and some of them might not make it until next year.

I think, weather-wise, we are becoming Indiana. I have family down there. They take great fun in rubbing in to me the fact that they can golf year around. Over the span of the winter, the golf courses down there close for a few days now and then due to snow and cold weather. Last week the Grand Rapids Press reported that Maple Hill Golf Course in Grandville has been open this winter except for a few days.

I wouldn’t claim to expertly know if this is a part of a pattern of global weather change, but it definitely looks like to me our weather is becoming more Indiana-like. The weather guys argue about the data collected, if it is technically correct, and if the conclusions made are correct. I’m not that sophisticated. What I look at is the items I discussed earlier. There is less snow during the deer hunting season. The only ice I see is being made by my refrigerator. Outdoor enthusiasts have less snow, and there is less cold weather for those outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the outdoors. That’s good enough for me to say there is something going on.

Becoming Indiana doesn’t sound all that good to me, but with every change there are opportunities. What, if anything, can and should be done about becoming Indiana is beyond my pay-grade, but I am sure the opportunities available are being worked on even as I write this article.

Something else that is being worked on right now is tax returns. Over 120 million tax returns will be filed in the next three months by the taxpayers of the United States. A substantial percentage of those returns will be prepared and filed electronically by tax professionals like me and my associates at Action Tax Service.

Here are some pointers to help taxpayers choose that tax professional.

First, choose a tax professional that is available all year around. Our tax system is so complicated today that we could have questions at any time of the year. It’s vitally important to have the tax professional available to answer questions all 12 months of the year.

Second, choose a tax professional that is competent. There are visible ways that tax professionals demonstrate competency. All Enrolled Agents (EAs), certified public accountants (CPAs) and attorneys at law have demonstrated technical competence in order to attain their credentialed EA, CPA and attorney status. However, there are many non-credentialed tax professionals preparing tax returns. At this time, they just don’t have a credential to put behind their name.

Third, choose an experienced tax professional. There are some professions in which you go to college for four years, get a degree, and you are ready to go. The tax profession isn’t like that. A person in the tax profession for four years is just getting started. I have 23 years under my belt and I am still learning.

Fourth, get a price quote before making an appointment. There is no average price. Know what your price, or a reasonable range of prices, is before you have the tax professional begin the process of preparing your return. Most tax professionals will sign, and will expect the taxpayer to sign, an engagement letter identifying the services to be provided to the taxpayer in exchange for the agreed-upon price.

Use these four pointers to help choose a tax professional to prepare your tax return. This is Jerry Coon signing off.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent. He owns Action Tax Service on Northland Drive in Rockford. Contact Jerry at www.actiontaxservice.com.

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