Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute. Be Ready for the 2018 Tax Season with these Financial Planning Tips
Ah, April 15th! Do you know what happened on the storied date that is April 15th? Well, in the icy waters off of Newfoundland, the famed luxury liner Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg, tragically killing more than 1500 passengers and crewmembers. April 15th is also a widely-known date in U.S. history because as most people—whether they are a layperson or work in the financial planning, accounting, or tax industries can tell you, this April 15th day of doom is also “Tax Day”, the colloquial term used to mark the day on which individual tax returns are due to the federal government in the U.S.
Do you really want to be one of those crazed procrastinators who has just pulled an all-nighter doing their taxes and then has to wait in line with hundreds of other cranky, sleep-deprived procrastinators at that one post office in town that’s open till midnight on Tax Day? Why not make your life easier and get your taxes in order ahead of time and avoid all that crazy, last-minute stress? By the way, while some may say that “procrastinators get it done,” your tax return is serious business that can have massive financial ramifications; as such, you don’t want to make costly mistakes or forget certain deductions or make errors that may make you more likely to get flagged for auditing because you are a sleep-deprived, time-crunched zombie. Financial planning and tax planning go hand-in-hand—tax planning is a critical part of your financial plan because efficient and smart tax planning can reduce your tax liability and maximize your eligibility for retirement plans.
Here are some quick tax planning and financial planning tips to avoid last-minute stress and get ahead on the 2018 tax season:
- Get Organized—Now! Regardless of whether you manually file your own taxes from home, use an online filing system such as TurboTax, or work with a tax preparer or accountant to file your taxes, organization is key! Keep all your tax documents in one designated folder/binder/box/drawer. You may also want to consider storing these important documents in a safe. Keep your personal and business documents separate. Make photocopies of all your paper tax documents as well. Another trick is to use your smartphone to take pictures of tax documents or relevant receipts (i.e., a charitable donation receipt from Goodwill) and then e-mail yourself these pictures. Store and categorize these pictures in a password-protected secure folder, Drobox-like storage program, or a secure cloud-based online storage system. In the soon-to-be published, second part of this blog topic, we will discuss in further detail the best tech tools to help keep you organized and get ahead for the 2018 tax season
- Educate Yourself About Tax Deductions: Most likely, there are a couple tax deductions you are eligible for that you are unaware of. Did you know that if you spent money or had to pay fees to manage your assets, including financial planning expenses such as paying a tax advisor or being charged fess to collect interest, you may be able to deduct these expenses on your tax return? According to the IRS’s Publication 529, “You can usually deduct tax preparation fees on the return for the year in which you pay them. Thus, on your 2016 return, you can deduct fees paid in 2016 for preparing your 2015 return. These fees include the cost of tax preparation software programs and tax publications. They also include any fee you paid for electronic filing of your return.”  So, brush up on potential tax deductions for the current tax year (deductions may change each year, so make sure you are using 2018 tax season information and rules and regulations) so you can be on the lookout for potential deductions for the tax season.
- Get Professional Help: Put a plan into motion about how you will be proactive about your tax filings this tax season. If you have a financial planner, discuss proactive tax planning with him or her. Consider whether you need to hire a professional such as a CPA or a tax attorney. Start researching options and service providers; then if necessary, make an introductory appointment with your chosen professional to see whether he or she is a good fit for your anticipated tax planning needs
- Calculate an Early Estimate: Several months ahead of Tax Day, perform a rough calculation to get a rough estimate as to how much taxes, if any, you will actually owe. This “practice tax filing calculation” is also an excellent way for you or your company to get a “current snapshot in time” of your personal or company’s financial status. This rough calculation/early estimate tip is most effective when done several months ahead of the tax filing deadline, thus allowing you a large enough time cushion to prepare in case you wind up with unexpected results. With this time cushion on your side, you can accordingly proactively plan for your upcoming tax liability and may be able to avoid having to file an extension for your tax return. Moreover, if your predicted tax liability is higher than anticipated, you may also have the option to set up quarterly payments to the IRS, which can help ease the financial burden come tax season.
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Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group. Summit Brokerage provides a broad range of securities brokerage and investment services to primarily individual investors. Summit Brokerage also sells insurance products, predominantly fixed and variable annuities and life insurance through its subsidiary, SBS Insurance Agency of Florida. Summit Brokerage also provides asset management services through its investment advisor, Summit Financial Group, Inc.
About Cetera Financial Group
Cetera Financial Group® (“Cetera”) is a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers empowering the delivery of objective financial planning advice to individuals, families and company retirement plans across the country through trusted financial advisors and financial institutions. Cetera is the second-largest independent financial advisor network in the nation by number of advisors, as well as a leading provider of retail services to the investment programs of banks and credit unions.
Through its multiple distinct firms, Cetera offers independent and institutions-based advisors the benefits of a large, established broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, while serving advisors and institutions in a way that is customized to their needs and aspirations. Independent financial advisor support resources offered through Cetera include award-winning wealth management and financial planning and advisory platforms, comprehensive broker-dealer and registered investment adviser services, practice management support and innovative technology. For more information, visit www.ceterafinancialgroup.com.
*”Cetera Financial Group” refers to the network of retail independent broker-dealers encompassing, among others, Cetera Advisors, Cetera Advisor Networks, Cetera Financial Institutions, Cetera Financial Specialists, First Allied Securities, Girard Securities, and Summit Brokerage Services.
All information herein has been prepared solely for informational purposes, and it is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security or instrument or to participate in any particular trading strategy.
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 (Note: While most years Tax Day is April 15th, this date can be pushed back a few days depending on various factors such as the timing of weekends and holidays and even severe weather such as tornados. In 2017, Tax Day was pushed to April 18th because April 15th fell on a Saturday and Monday April 17th is Emancipation Day, which is observed in D.C. and closes the IRS offices. You can also request a six-month filing deadline from the government and certain filing deadlines are extended for those living or working in federal disaster areas or members of the military serving in combat zones.) See https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-april-15-has-lost-its-claim-as-tax-day-1488469734