Author Archives: austin underwood

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What to Look for in an Accountant

The skill and integrity of your accountant are very important. The work that they perform and the guidance they provide has a direct impact on your financial wellbeing, and your financial wellbeing plays a major role in the quality of life that you enjoy. Consequently, it is critical that when looking for an accountant in Fort Collins or anywhere, you assess whether they possess certain key attributes. 

Key Attributes to Look for in an Accountant

Before trusting an accountant with your finances, you should confirm that they have these characteristics:

  • Experience. The person fresh out of college may have earned high marks in all their accounting classes, but without a firm foundation in real-world accounting, you can’t be sure they will know how to deal with the unique scenarios that your finances present.
  • Attention to detail. Talk with people who use a particular accountant. They can tell you if that person goes the extra mile to ensure high-quality work. If instead, you learn that the accountant often lets mistakes slip through, keep looking. Errors can cause a great deal of financial trouble.
  • Transparency. Your accountant should be happy to explain every action they take or decision they make on your behalf. If they tend to answer specific questions with vague answers, that should be a red flag.
  • Positive reputation. When an accountant does exceptional work, word gets around. If your inquiries don’t quickly turn up some excellent reviews, it’s best to keep looking.

Who You Trust with Your Finances Matters

Selecting a financial services provider is an important decision and one you should make carefully. As a respected accountant in Fort Collins, Kevin Shaw welcomes your questions about Shaw & Associates CPAs and Financial Advisors. Contact us to learn more about our services. 

Scam alert for IRS scams

Fort Collins Tax Accountant Sheds Light on IRS Phishing Scams

You’ve received an email that appears to be from the IRS requesting that you provide them with confidential information. Should you send them what they’ve asked for? As a Fort Collins tax accountant that has seen many of these kinds of requests, we can tell you that you definitely should not. The IRS makes it clear on its website that these types of communications do not come from them, stating:

“The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.”

The email you received is an example of what’s called a “phishing” scam. Phishing is when criminals contact a person by email or other means and claim to be a representative of a legitimate company or organization. This is an attempt to obtain information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal data they can profit from.

Tips for Spotting and Addressing Phishing

Before replying to or clicking a link in an email from any unknown sender, you should look for certain telltale signs that it is a phishing scam. Some of the more common include:

  • Unrealistic threats. Warnings that you will be arrested, fined, lose your home, or face other negative consequences if you don’t comply with a request are almost always phishing scams.
  • Poor spelling and grammar. Emails from legitimate businesses go through many levels of proofreading and review. They rarely have errors, and almost never multiple errors or awkward phrasings.
  • Requests for confidential information. Email is not a safe way to send confidential information. Legitimate organizations know that and will not ask you to do so.
  • Promises of financial gain. Messages that guarantee a monetary return if you simply follow the steps provided are never from a trustworthy source.
  • Claims of contacting you on a loved one’s behalf. Notes that include statements like, “Your nephew has been arrested and asked me to contact you for bail money.” should not be trusted.

What should you do if you suspect phishing?

First, don’t reply and don’t click anything in the email. Even a photo can have a hidden link. You can just delete the email. However, if you want to take additional action, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that you:

  • Forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov – and to the organization impersonated in the email. Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, but most email programs hide this information. To ensure the header is included, search the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine.
  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint.
  • Visit Identitytheft.gov. Victims of phishing could become victims of identity theft; there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
  • You can also report phishing email to reportphishing@apwg.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group – which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies – uses these reports to fight phishing.

If the scam is related to the IRS or your finances, you can also contact Shaw & Associates, your trusted Fort Collins tax accountant for guidance.

Misconceptions about tax extensions

Misconceptions About Filing Tax Extensions: Fort Collins CPA Dispels 6 Common Myths

There are many reasons to file an income tax extension. Whether you are missing key information or are away from home during tax season, you have the right to request extra time to complete and submit your return.

However, there are several misconceptions about tax extensions that create hesitation for people looking to file. Below are six common misperceptions and an explanation that sets the record straight for each.

  1. “Filing an extension also gives me an extension to pay.” Not true. An extension will give you additional time to get your paperwork to the IRS, but it does NOT extend the time you have to pay the taxes you owe. You must estimate any amounts due and pay it with the extension or be subject to penalties and interest.
  2. “Filing an extension will make me more likely to be audited.” Not true. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that those who file extensions are less likely to be audited. Some tax professionals speculate that auditors have quotas they must meet, and they tend to have done so before the October tax extension deadline.
  3. “The IRS doesn’t like granting extensions and will likely reject my request if I don’t have a good reason for missing the April deadline.” The IRS doesn’t ask why you need an extension, and automatically grants a grace period of six months to anyone who fills out the form correctly.
  4. “I’m embarrassed because nobody else has to ask for an extension.” Actually, more than 10 million people file for a tax extension every year. Some taxpayers do so as a regular practice to give themselves more time to produce a complete and accurate return.
  5. “Requesting a tax extension requires the assistance of an accountant.” Not true. Filing for a tax extension is easy and can be done online. What’s known as the FileLater system lets you e-file the request in just minutes.
  6. “If I’m granted an extension, I can’t submit my return until October.” While October is the deadline for filing, you can submit your return at any point prior to then.

The Key is Ensuring Your Return is Done Right

A tax extension is a useful tactic that you are fully entitled to take advantage of as needed. If for any reason you aren’t prepared to submit a complete and accurate return by your filing deadline, you should request an extension and then talk with a tax accountant in Fort Collins like Shaw & Associates to ensure that the return is completed correctly. Contact us at your convenience to learn more about our tax and business accounting services.

Fort Collins Tax Accountant Explains 2018 Tax Reform

What You Need to Know About the 2018 Tax Reform

With the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in place, it is important to get the most up-to-date information on filing your tax returns. Taxes and personal finances can be overwhelming, but Shaw & Associates, your trusted Fort Collins tax accountant, wants to make it simple for you. There are a number of changes to the law that may impact your future tax returns.

  1. Marginal tax rates have decreased. Beginning in 2018, all marginal tax brackets have decreased. Taxpayers will now be required to pay less tax on a higher level of income. This is ultimately a positive adjustment across the board.
  2. Standard deduction has increased. The standard deduction that a taxpayer is allowed has nearly doubled. In 2018, single filers can deduct $12,000 and a married couple filing jointly can deduct $24,000.
  3. Personal exemption has been eliminated. Prior to the new tax law, taxpayers could automatically deduct $4,050 per each person on the tax return. From 2018 forward, no personal exemptions can be claimed. For families with a higher number of dependents, this will have a greater impact.
  4. Several important deductions have been changed or eliminated. In 2018, there are a variety of deductions that have been modified, including the child tax credit, state and local taxes, moving expenses, etc. Contact Shaw & Associates to discuss further how each of these deductions may impact you.

Put Your Mind at Ease

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has brought with it many changes, big and small. Avoid overlooking any of these items that may affect your tax situation; your Fort Collins tax accountant can discuss how these new laws will impact you and work through each one with you. Contact Shaw & Associates today to increase your understanding and put your mind at ease!