Welcome to The Shaw Atlas, the monthly newsletter from Shaw & Associates, CPAs & Financial Advisors. We look forward to keeping you abreast of ever-changing tax codes, providing you with money saving accounting tips and illustrating proactive strategies to help you achieve the financial life you envision.
Tax Season Recap – A Look Back At The 2016 Busy Season
It’s in the Rear View Mirror—Finally!
Shaw & Associates, CPAs
Although we realize tax season impacts our lives much more than it does yours, we are happy to report we survived another tax season! Actually, not only did we survive it, but it was one of the smoothest tax seasons that those of us who have been doing this for a while can remember. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that we have very cooperative clients, and we have gotten into a rhythm with many of you that helps make the process go fairly smooth. However, we always strive to make it better, so that we can constantly improve our client service and try to maintain our staff’s sanity. So we thought we would share some ideas about how we can make the tax preparation process smoother, and things you can do, as our clients, to help us provide you with better service.
Plan, plan, plan
As either a business owner, or as someone whose personal return we prepare, planning ahead almost always pays off. We frequently learn about changes to a client’s tax situation when preparing the tax return; when it is too late to possibly improve the tax impact for the client. Many of you already do a great job of getting tax planning appointments scheduled with us in the last quarter of the year, please keep it up! Additionally, if you become aware of something during the year that will be different or complex, please get in touch with us then (before the transaction is completed is even better in case there are tax-savings steps that you can incorporate into the transaction). Some examples include:
- Sale of real estate other than your primary residence (especially if it is a like-kind exchange, partial vacation home, rental property, etc);
- Sale, purchase, or disposal of a significant amount of business assets or of a business vehicle;
- Starting or discontinuing a business, whether it is a corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship;
- Implementing, or considering implementing, a new retirement plan;
- Ownership changes of your business (adding or buying out partners or shareholders).
Additionally, we process a significant amount of data between mid-January and mid-April each year. Because of that, we are limited in both the amount of time, and of brain power, that we can dedicate to each return and each client. However, we work year-round. Often there is preliminary work that we can perform before tax season that will save time and money, and increase accuracy. We generally have lower rates outside of tax season for certain types of work that we would bill at higher tax rates if the work is done between January 1st and April 15th. Many of these issues also require research of tax laws, which can happen more efficiently when we are not in the heat of tax season. Finally, many of these types of transactions can be made more tax-efficient with proper planning before year-end, because then we have the flexibility to implement in the current year, or postpone until the next year, depending on the optimal tax benefits.
Advance planning is going to become especially important for the 2016 tax year due to a major IRS deadline change. Starting with the 2016 tax year, the deadline to file a Form 1065 (for Partnership and LLC returns) has changed from April 15 to March 15, with a possible extension to September 15. This will cause a significant shift in our tax season processing schedule and will make advance planning even more crucial.
At tax time
There are a few recurring actions (or lack of) that we’ve noticed that can impact our tax preparation process and the completion times. How can you help?
- Complete our tax questionnaires. We understand our tax questionnaires are pretty long and detailed, and many of the items do not apply to all clients. However, we do work hard before each tax season to revise these questionnaires to make sure that all questions are important, and that it is as concise as possible. Receiving a completed tax questionnaire improves the efficiency and accuracy of our preparation process. It also helps identify situations you may not be aware of and could possibly save you taxes. We always send these questionnaires in an email the first week of January, so if you are assembling your tax documents for us and missed that email, Kayla would be happy to send it to you again.
- Read our tax emails thoroughly. We send out many details in January of every year, including tax questionnaires, deadlines to submit your documents for on-time filings, and pertinent announcements for that year. It is crucial that you read these thoroughly and perform any actions requested. Additionally, as tax season progresses, we send out details on extensions and deadline reminders.
- Answer our tax preparers’ questions completely. We give all clients the choice of how they would like to be contacted with questions (this is on the first page of our tax questionnaire), and most of you choose email, which we prefer as well so that we have good records for our files. We realize we are more thorough than many firms, and that is because we pride ourselves on preparing accurate returns and in providing the highest level of client service. However, our questions are relevant to the preparation of your return, and are all important to be answered. We get numerous responses to our email questions with only some of the questions answered, or answers such as “I don’t know”. While it is fine to not know an answer (or to ask us for clarification in understanding the question), in most cases we have to eventually get an answer before we can move on, and we can’t create answers for you. And in most cases “use the same as last year” is not a valid answer. The more times we have to respond to get a question answered, the longer it takes to prepare your return (meaning the higher your bill from us), and the more delayed in completing the return).
When you receive a draft to review
- We have been noticing that we receive many questions of why things are different from the prior year (in other words “why is my refund lower than last year?” or “why do I owe more than I did last year?”). We include a two year comparison schedule with the client copy of the tax return that shows side-by-side comparison of many key line items to the prior year. We are going to move this schedule up in page order so that it is very close to the beginning of your draft copy, and that can help in answering a lot of those questions you may have.
- Reviewing your draft timely and asking any questions you may have definitely helps move the process along. If we have many clients who wait to review their draft until close to a big deadline date, it is very difficult for us to properly answer your questions and complete all the necessary administrative steps to finalize all pending returns.
Again, thank you for all you do to help us with a task you undoubtedly do not enjoy! We value our clients and truly look forward to being in touch with you at least once a year. If you have feedback or ideas for us on how to improve our service or processes, please let us know. Enjoy your summer, and remember to be in touch with us with any questions you may have, throughout the year.
Realities for Children Homebase Facility – Donate a Brick
For 21 years Realities For Children has been serving the unmet needs of children that have been abused, neglected and at-risk in Larimer County. Serving over 4,000 children each year and uniting the great work of 31 Affiliate Youth Agencies to see that the best overall continuum of service is provided and that no child in need is forgotten. As an organization they have set the industry standards in Fiscal Efficiency, Collaboration and Community Involvement. And they continually strive to fortify Emergency Services – The Healing Process and Breaking the Cycle of abuse and dependency. It is this dedication to improve stability, the healing process and support to their partner agencies that has led them to spearhead the Realities For Children Homebase Facility and Youth Campus.
In providing this centrally located Homebase facility they will enhance Realities For Children Charities services in providing a one stop location for Back To School Supplies, Warm Winter Clothing, Santa’s Toy and Bikes For Tykes distributions that is equally accessible to all 31 Affiliate Agencies County wide. Offering the facility necessary to host safe and secure youth activities that provide cathartic and therapeutic opportunity for change, and offer the facilities and campus space that is needed by so many of these valuable Affiliate Agencies to strengthen their ability to heal along the path.
Realities For Children Charities works daily with nearly every service organization that provides for at-risk youth locally, and is in the unique position to meet this genuine need that the Homebase facility and campus will provide. Through a special opportunity for land, facilities and a business network of over 200 partners Realities For Children are able to secure, improve and provide over 8,000 square feet of Facility Space and 4 acre youth Campus to make this needed County wide Homebase a reality for an unprecedented $900,000. We are asking you to consider becoming a Homebase Donor to help support and empower the most vulnerable members of our community for generations to come.
To further exemplify the importance of this program, The Richardson Foundation is generously offering a dollar for dollar matching gift challenge of every dollar donated until this Campaign is met! That means every dollar anyone donated is instantly doubled in reach and service!
We are excited to share the opportunity to become part of this legacy of service by offering you the opportunity to Donate a Brick on the Path of Healing that will be featured at the entry to the Homebase facility. Businesses, Families, Organizations and Individuals alike are invited to be part of the Healing Path for children in our community that have been abused, neglected or are at-risk. Each Brick on the path is a $1,000 tax deductible donation toward the Homebase Facility and Youth Campus. Each Brick may be engraved with up to 3 lines of 17 characters on each line. They may dedicated to your family, in your business name or in memory of a loved one.
For more information about the Realities For Children Homebase Facility and to donate online please visit www.RealitiesHomebase.com or Call Realities For Children Charities at 970-484-9090
Donation Checks can be mailed to:
Realities For Children Charities – 1610 South College Avenue – Fort Collins CO 80525 (Please note Homebase in the Memo section.)
Shaw & Associates are proud to be Business Members and Supporters of Realities For Children and to be able to share this opportunity with each of you to help us build a Homebase for our communities Children in need.
Business After Hours Tradeshow – Stop by our Booth!
The Annual Business After Hours Tradeshow proudly sponsored by Fort Collins Marriott will be held on Thursday, May 26. Please take the opportunity to stop by our booth to enter to win prizes such as free oilchanges, fertilizer applications, and other fun prizes offered by some of our amazing clients. We can’t wait to see you all there!
Denim Day Charity – The Matthews House
Every quarter Shaw & Associates picks a charity to donate to with “Denim Day”, whereemployees donate $5 every time they wear jeans to the workplace. This quarter we are excited to be supporting The Matthews House and the work they do to help empower young adults and families locally. To learn more about this great organization, please visit their website.
Food Bank of Larimer County – Front Range Rally
The Front Range Rally is a festival celebrating Colorado’s richculture of craft brewing and the emergence of a growing cadre of quality mobile food vendors. Plan to attend on Saturday May 28, 2016 at the Loveland Food Share, 2600 N. Lincoln, Loveland, CO for an afternoon of food, beer, music, fun and community.
OpenStage Theatre – Taming of the Shrew
The question is still debated: just who is taming whom in Shakespeare’s uproarious comedy? In fair Padua, the merchant Baptista announces no one will betroth his charming daughter Bianca until her older sister Katharine is wed. Taming of the Shrew opens Saturday June 4th and plays through Saturday July 2nd. Please contact our office for free tickets to attend!