The first three segments of these posts (Part I, Part II and Part III) covered the documentation necessary to file your 2014 return. This segment will focus on how you can use your return from 2013 to help you file this year.
If you are returning to a tax preparer you used in the previous year, they will already have your return on file, so there is not much to worry about. However, if you are using a new preparer, it is always best practice to bring a copy of your latest year’s return for their review. This allows the preparer to get a sense of the deductions and credits taken in the previous year. Even though you will most likely be receiving some sort of “tax planner” or “tax planning guide” from your preparer, it is always helpful to look at a previous year’s return. This practice can also be beneficial because the new preparer may see something in your previous return that was missed or done incorrectly. You are basically receiving a free “second opinion” on the return and if anything was filed improperly, you can file an amended return to correct the error or apply for an additional refund.
If you are filing your own returns, you should always compare your current year return to your return from last year, before submitting it to the IRS. I always recommend printing out a draft version of your return in order to compare it line-by-line to your previous return. When doing your own return, it can be easy to overlook an expense that could qualify as a deduction. If there is a deduction from 2013 that does not show up in 2014, investigate! Did you omit the deduction this year? Is your Adjusted Gross Income too high this year and you are phased out of the deduction? This approach should be applied to any potential credits as well. You do not have to understand every nuance of the tax code, but make sure you are not doing yourself an injustice by omitting a deduction or credit in which you are entitled.
Reviewing your return is key! If you feel unsure of your return or that you may have missed something along the way, reach out to a local firm for a consultation! It is worth knowing that your return is done correctly.