Personal Tax Prep Checklist

Getting ready to file your 2019 personal income taxes can be a daunting task of collecting information. But don’t worry, the pros at Donohoo Accounting Services are here to help! The information required to file your income taxes neatly falls into four categories: Your personal information, dependents’ information, income sources and deductions.

Your Personal Information

While most people may have this information ready-at-hand for other purposes, others may have to locate it. Either way, you will need it to file your federal, state and local income taxes. Be sure to have your Social Security number or tax ID number, as well as the full name and Social Security number or tax ID number for your spouse if you are married. If you have this information in written or printed form, be sure to shred the document after your tax preparation for security purposes. Professional accountants take very good care to do this.

Dependent Information

You will need the full names of your children or dependents along with their Social Security numbers or tax ID numbers. Having either their Social Security cards or their names and numbers in written or printed form may make filing easier for your tax preparer. However, as mentioned above, be sure to shred the document after your tax preparation for security purposes.

Income Sources
This is where collecting income tax information starts to get tricky, but you can do this!

W-2 Forms

If you and your spouse work a regular full-time or part-time job, your employer will issue a W-2 Form that shows your earnings and tax deductions for the year. Some employers mail W-2 Forms to their employees while others provide access to an electronic document online that you can download and print. Either way, secure a paper copy of your W-2 Forms for yourself and for your spouse.

1099 Forms

Companies issue this form to contracted workers who earn more than $600 within one tax year. Additionally, you may receive a 1099 Form if you received income from non-work sources such as investments, rental income, prior years’ state and local income tax refunds, lottery or gambling winnings, unemployment compensation or retirement benefits. In addition to the 1099 Form, you may be required to provide additional documentation for income earned outside of your primary job. Your tax professional can provide details.

Deductions

Although this area of tax filing seems complicated to most people, taking deductions can reduce your tax liability and may increase the likelihood of your getting an income tax refund. More than a dozen kinds of income tax deductions can be taken, but the most popular deductions are for qualified charitable contributions, home mortgage interest, educational expenses and medical expenses. While you may receive year-end statements from the institutions that received your contributions or payments, consult with your tax professional for details about the kinds of records you need to provide when claiming deductions.

To help you find the most deductions and keep your personal information secure, contact Donohoo Accounting Services at 513-528-3982 for a free consultation. We have served and earned the trust of individuals and small businesses throughout the Greater Cincinnati area for more than 20 years.

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4 Personal Finance Tips For A Strong 2020

2019 is quickly coming to a close. Get ahead of the game and get your money in order for 2020. Don’t know where to begin? No worries! Here are some helpful tips.

Get Organized

You can file taxes after the new year, so now’s a good time to get all your ducks in a row. In January and early February, you’ll be receiving important documents in the mail including your W2, mortgage interest statement (1098), or student loan interest statement (1098-E.) Most companies, by law, have until January 31 to mail statements, so keep an eye out.

Designate a single location where you’ll keep these documents so they are easily accessible when you’re ready to file taxes. You can use a folder, drawer, box or another container. Put a large “taxes” label on it and use the container for tax-related documents only, not other mail or bills. But you may want to keep it near where you sort mail, so you can immediately put the documents in their home.

Then start gathering other items you’ll need for filing taxes, including charitable contribution and expense receipts. Qualified expenses depend on your situation, but could include expenses related to childcare, medical, work (mileage, supplies, relocation) and education. Donohoo Accounting Services can help you navigate the complicated tax structure. In addition to income tax preparation, we handle payroll tax prep, tax levies and liens, back taxes, end tax penalties, estate tax return preparation and more.

Make Year-End Charitable Contributions

Many charities do a final fundraising push at the end of the year, so you’ll probably receive solicitations asking for support. If you want to help non-profit organizations while also possibly reducing your taxable income, make your donations by December 31. Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year will count in that year – even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until later. You’ll want to make sure the charity is eligible. Many times, the charity will note its “501c3” status, which is IRS speak for tax-exempt. You can also use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search. If you live in the Greater Cincinnati area, check out our blog for four great local non-profit organizations.

Take an Assessment of Where You Stand Financially

Now’s a good time to take a hard look at your income, debt, expenses, retirement funds, college and emergency savings. Are you on track to meet financial goals? If yes – great! If no – why are you falling short? To properly move forward into the next year, you need a realistic picture of where you are now. Put pen to paper and write down all the numbers. It helps to see everything in black and white.

Make a Financial New Year’s Resolution (Or Better Yet – Create A Plan You’ll Stick With All Year)

Once you know where you stand currently, you can create a plan for 2020. Perhaps you want an emergency savings fund. You never know when the furnace is going to go out, someone in your family has a medical issue or there’s a company layoff. Experts say you should have enough emergency savings to cover three to sixth months of expenses. Maybe you have all your financial bases covered but want to take an exotic vacation? Set the goal, create a plan and start saving for that overseas beach trip.

Although it’s a busy holiday season, set aside time to get your money in order for the new year. Once you’re ready to file taxes, turn to Donohoo Accounting Services, locally owned and operated by Cincinnati native, Duane Donohoo. Give us a call at 513-528-3982 to arrange your complimentary consultation to see how we can help find the most deductions possible for your personal taxes. And don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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Tips for Completing the FAFSA

Planning ahead is vital for a successful academic year and it’s never too early to start thinking about financial aid for next year. The 2020-21 FAFSA is available for filing beginning October 1 and getting an early start means you’ll have plenty of time to complete and submit your financial aid well before the deadline. Whether you’re a student or a parent, filling out FAFSA can be complicated and time-consuming, so it’s important to be careful in order to avoid costly mistakes. With these helpful tips, you can avoid dreading the deadline and rest easy knowing next year’s financial aid is secured.

Fill It Out Early

You may think that you have plenty of time to fill your FAFSA out, but putting off finishing it can cost you. Filling it out and submitting your FAFSA as soon as it’s available provides you with the opportunity to get the most financial aid available, as some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. In some instances, states and colleges run out of money early, so make sure to complete your FAFSA early to avoid being left high and dry for the next academic year.

Get A FSA ID Before Starting Your FAFSA

Your FSA ID is an important part of completing your FAFSA as it allows you to electronically sign your FAFSA and submit it and access other Department of Education websites. Each FSA ID is unique and both parents and students will need to create their own separate IDs in order to avoid any delays that may result from a mix-up.

Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)

One of the requirements for completing your FAFSA is supplying your financial information. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool lets you avoid the difficulty of finding old tax returns or risk entering the wrong data. In a few simple clicks, you can import your tax information quickly and accurately, reducing the risk of any errors. Simply click “Link to IRS” to use it.

Carefully Review Information Before Submitting Your FAFSA

Even the simplest mistake can have a serious impact your financial aid, delaying your application or affecting the amount of financial aid you receive, so before you submit your FAFSA it’s important to make sure everything is complete. Common mistakes include leaving too many fields blank, forgetting to list the colleges you plan to attend, or misplaced commas and decimal points. Mistakes often come from failing to read or misunderstanding directions so while you’re reviewing your information make sure you’ve filled everything out according to the instructions.

Sign and Submit

Until you’ve signed and submitted your FAFSA it’s still incomplete. Once you’ve reviewed all of your information and checked or corrected and mistakes you can submit your FAFSA electronically using your FSA ID.

If you’re looking for help with questions about making sure you have everything you need for your financial aid application, contact an experienced accountant like the ones at Donohoo Accounting Services. Schedule a free consultation at 513-528-3982 or email us today. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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Tips for Saving for College

Having a college degree is vital in today’s economy because a degree means higher wages, more career opportunities, greater job satisfaction and other benefits. But as college costs continue to increase it’s more important than ever to start saving for your children’s future as early as possible. These tips can help you get a head start and put your student on a path to higher education that leaves them with as little student debt as possible.

Put Yourself In The Right Financial Position To Start Saving

Parents are encouraged to start saving for their child’s college fund as early as possible, but before you do it’s important to make sure you’re in the right financial position. Paying off credit card or your own student loan debt, establishing an emergency savings account, as well as saving for retirement are important financial milestones to complete before establishing a college fund. Completing these milestones will help put you in the right financial position to start saving.

Research College Costs

With college costs continuing to rise, it’s important to make sure you’re saving enough to cover your future student’s tuition, living expenses, materials and fees. Researching and comparing the costs of attending public colleges both in and out of state with private universities and community colleges gives you an idea of what kind of costs to expect. This allows you to determine a time frame and budget.

Explore Different Savings Options

There’s a variety of different savings options available to start your college fund, and researching available plans will help you find the one that’s right for you. Education Savings Accounts (ESA) offer parents the opportunity to save $2,000 per year, per child that grows tax-free. While the money can be withdrawn tax-free when it’s ready to be used, you must meet a certain income limit to qualify and contributions are limited to $2,000 a year.

529 plans are an alternative to those looking to contribute more than $2,000 or don’t meet the income limits of an ESA. The high contribution rates offer the opportunity to quickly meet your goal and like the ESA, your money grows tax-free. While 529 plans provide parents great saving opportunities for a single child, restrictions may apply if the parents decide to transfer the funds to another child.

Find Out If You Qualify for Certain Tax Breaks

Qualifying for available tax breaks helps provide you with more money that can be put toward educational costs. If you’re eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, you can get a credit of up to $2,500 that covers certain educational expenses while the Lifetime Learning Credit covers costs other than tuition and books including activity fees.

For help with questions about the best ways to save for your child’s future, contact an experienced accountant like the ones at Donohoo Accounting Services. Schedule a free consultation at 513-528-3982 or email us today. And don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for our latest updates!

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