Category: Finance

Documents to Bring to Your Tax Preparer

In many parts of the country, April marks a return to warm temperatures, landscapes marked by blooming foliage and perhaps even a colorful flower or two. April also signals tax season, a notion that may elicit different reactions than warmer weather and budding plants, particularly among those who do not anticipate receiving a tax refund.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the deadline to file a 2023 tax return is Monday, April 15, 2024. Individuals who file more complicated returns or those who simply don’t have the time to file on their own typically look to tax preparation professionals to ensure their returns are filed correctly and on time. As the tax deadline draws closer, taxpayers who work with tax preparation professionals can make that partnership go more smoothly by ensuring they bring along these necessary documents and details to their appointments.

Social Security Numbers

Individuals who are filing as single or jointly with a spouse will need to list the Social Security numbers of each person on the return. Taxpayers with dependents will need to provide the full names and Social Security numbers of each dependent as well as their own Social Security numbers.


A copy of a form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, also must be included in a tax return. The identification confirms a person’s identity and the name on the ID provided must match the name associated with the Social Security number provided.

Income statements

Tax preparers need a copy of each taxpayer’s W-2 form, which employers must provide by the end of January. Taxpayers with more than one job must provide a W-2 from each employer. Additional income statements, such as forms indicating gambling winnings or retirement account distributions, also must be provided to the tax prep pro. Taxpayers who have such income should contact their tax preparation pro prior to their appointment to determine which additional income form they need to file.

Tax Deduction Documents

Tax deductions save taxpayers money, and taxpayers may be eligible for a range of deductions. For example, homeowners who finance their home purchases with mortgages will receive a 1098 form from their mortgage provider each January. That form is a mortgage interest statement that can help homeowners reduce their tax obligations. Donations, student loan interest payments and college tuition costs are some additional potential deductions. Charities, student loan servicing firms and colleges or universities should provide tax deduction documents by the end of January, and taxpayers can turn these forms over to their tax preparation professional so they earn all eligible deductions.


Some expenses are eligible for tax deductions. Taxpayers can contact their tax preparation professional to determine if any medical bills, business expenses, charitable contributions, or additional expenses are deductible. Receipts may be required, and individuals are urged to hold on to any receipts they might be able to use to earn a tax deduction.

Tax season has arrived, and taxpayers are urged to provide all relevant documents to their tax preparers to ensure their returns are filed correctly and on time.

Steps To Secure Your Financial Privacy

Safeguarding personal financial data has never been more important, as an increasingly digital world has made online banking that much more prevalent. Cyber crimes are a significant concern. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no less than 422 million individuals were impacted by cyber crime in 2022, and nearly 33 billion accounts are anticipated to be breached by the end of 2023. Cyber crimes are happening every day, even if the public only hears about the largest data breaches.

Financial institutions as well as retailers and other businesses that require the use of personal financial information are obligated to safeguard customer data. According to the Federal Trade Commission, financial institutions protect the privacy of consumers’ finances under a federal law called the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That law governs banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and companies providing many other types of products and services. The law dictates how financial institutions can collect and disclose customer’s personal financial information.

Individuals also have key roles to play in protecting themselves. Though even the best precautions cannot completely secure your financial privacy, every little effort is worth it to reduce your risk of being victimized by data theft. These tips from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority can help individuals safeguard their privacy.

· You have the right to opt out of the sharing of some of your personal information with affiliates and non-affiliates of a financial institution. For example, you can opt out of receiving prescreened credit offers by way of credit bureaus selling information about you to lenders or insurance.

· Increase awareness of phishing scams. These often are emails that appear to come from legitimate firms or financial regulators asking for personal information. These entities would never ask for account numbers, passwords, credit card information, or Social Security numbers through email. Verify all communication with the financial institution by contacting that institution directly at the number listed on your account statement or bill.

· Be aware of where you click online. Never click on a questionable link or download a suspicious email attachment.

· Strong passwords can keep accounts more secure. Resist the urge to use the same password across many accounts. Once that password is compromised, the cyber criminal may be able to try it on your other accounts. Consider using a password manager to suggest and save strong and unique passwords for each account.

· Utilize multifactor authentication whenever it is available. MFA adds an extra layer of protection by using a password as well as a unique code or biometric to unlock the account.

· Conduct all financial business on a personal device on a secure network. Delete the cache and history frequently to avoid leaving a digital trace.

These steps can help protect financial security. Individuals need to be diligent in safeguarding their information from cyber criminals.

3 Steps To Simplify Tax Prep So You Can File On Time

Spring is noted for the sense of rejuvenation it inspires when temperatures warm up and flowers begin to bloom. But in the United States, the onset of spring is followed shortly thereafter by tax season, which typically generates entirely different feelings than the first sight of spring blooms.

The deadline to file tax returns in the U.S. in 2023 is Tuesday, April 18. With that deadline looming, now is a good time to consider these three basic tax preparation tips, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

1. Access your IRS account. Individuals can access or create their IRS account at That ensures taxpayers have the latest information about their federal tax account and enables them to see information about their most recently filed return. A visit to also allows individuals to make payments and apply for payment plans, among other options.

2. Organize your tax records. The IRS urges taxpayers to wait to file their returns until they have all of their records, including:

– Forms W-2 from employer(s)

– Forms 1099 from banks, issuing agencies and others payers, including unemployment compensation, dividends, pension, annuity or retirement plan distributions

– Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC, W-2, or other income statement if you worked in the gig economy

– For 1099-INT if you were paid interest

– Other income documents and records of digital asset transactions, including convertible virtual currency and cryptocurrency, stablecoins and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

– Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, to reconcile advance payments or claim Premium Tax Credits for 2022 Marketplace coverage

– IRS or other agency letters

– CP01A Notice with your new Identity Protection PIN

3. Check your Individual Tax Identification Number. The IRS notes that an ITIN only requires renewal if it has expired and is needed on a federal tax return. An expired ITIN can delay the processing of a return, which in turn can delay tax credits and refunds.

Taxpayers filing with the help of a licensed tax professional are urged to contact that individual to inquire about any additional information they may need to file a return on time. Make such an inquiry well in advance of the deadline to file so you have sufficient time to gather all of the necessary documentation.

More information about filing taxes is available at

Tips To Pick The Right Time To Retire

Professionals work hard to achieve both short- and long-term goals. Retirement certainly qualifies as a long-term goal, and many people spend decades building and investing in a nest egg that they hope will help them enjoy their golden years to the fullest extent.

The decision regarding when to retire is affected by a host of variables, so what’s a good time for one individual may not be ideal for another. However, professionals on the cusp of retirement can consider these tips as they try to pick the right time to retire.

Consider Age-Related Benefits

Both the United States and Canada feature government-sponsored retirement income programs and it behooves individuals to familiarize themselves with the rules of those programs so they can maximize their benefits. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) allows individuals to begin receiving full CPP benefits at age 65, but they also can get a permanently reduced amount the moment they turn 60. The CPP also allows people to receive a permanent increase if they wait until turning 70 to receive payment. Similar age-related rules govern the Social Security benefits program in the United States, where individuals can begin claiming benefits at age 62, though those benefits will be reduced by 25 percent. If individuals wait until they’re 66 or, in some cases, 67, to claim Social Security benefits, they will receive their full benefits. The Social Security Administration notes that those who can wait until age 70 to claim benefits will receive as much as 132 percent of the monthly benefit they would have received at full retirement age.

These distinctions are significant, especially for people who will be looking to government-sponsored programs to provide significant financial support in retirement. Individuals who won’t rely as heavily on such programs may be able to retire earlier.

Pay Off Your Debts

Carrying debt into retirement can be risky. In general, it’s ideal to pay off all debts, including a mortgage and car payment, before retiring. Doing so can provide more financial flexibility and make it easier to manage unforeseen expenses, such as those incurred due to health problems.

Consider Your Retirement Living Expenses

It goes without saying that a sizable nest egg will be a necessity for anyone hoping to live comfortably in retirement. But the tricky part is figuring just how big a nest egg might need to be. In such instances, individuals can speak with a financial advisor and discuss what their retirement living expenses will be. Conventional wisdom based on the Consumer Price Index suggests individuals will need to replace between 70 and 80 percent of their pre-retirement income after calling it a career. But even that figure is not set in stone, as rising inflation, such as the rapid spike experienced in 2022, can quickly put retirees in financial jeopardy. By estimating the expenses they might have in retirement, individuals can begin to see just how close or far away from retirement they may be. Budget for inflation so any spike in living expenses can be easier to manage.

Many individuals recognize that there’s no perfect time to retire. But a few simple strategies can help professionals make the best decision possible.

How to Be a Smart Credit Consumer

Financial planning encompasses a host of strategies designed to help people enjoy the fruits of their labors. Financial planning is often associated with saving for retirement. However, smart credit management is an integral component of financial planning that can begin paying dividends long before adults are ready to retire.

Capital One notes that the benefits of a good credit score include lower credit card and mortgage interest rates, which can save individuals tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their home loans. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission reports that the better an individual’s credit history, the easier it is for that person to establish utility services, including electricity and internet service.

With so much to gain, individuals should do everything they can to be smart credit consumers. These strategies can help consumers use credit to their advantage as they look to gain from this vital component of financial planning.

Recognize the factors that affect your score. A credit score is generated using a formula that takes various factors into consideration. These factors include payment history, credit utilization rate, length of credit history, and credit inquiries, among others. Each variable is important, but paying balances in full and on time each month is a great way to build a strong financial reputation in the eyes of creditors. In addition, avoid overutilization of credit, especially if you can’t pay balances in full each month.

Check credit before looking for a job. One easily overlooked benefit of being a smart credit consumer is its impact on individuals’ ability to find a good job. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urges individuals to check their credit reports before they begin looking for a job so they can correct any mistakes that may be on their reports. That’s because some employers look at applicants’ credit reports as part of their background checks. Smart credit consumers recognize that monitoring their credit is just as important as utilizing it wisely. Consumers can access reports from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free once every 12 months.

Don’t wing it. Much like successful retirement planning is often the culmination of decades of hard work, strategizing and saving, becoming a smart credit consumer involves commitment to a well-developed plan to utilize credit. Impulsive use of credit can quickly compromise individuals’ credit histories and financial reputations, so develop a plan to use credit wisely and stick to that plan. A successful credit utilization strategy should be rooted in paying bills on time, and ideally in full, each month to avoid potentially costly interest charges. Identify any bad credit utilization habits and do your best to eliminate them. If necessary, work with a financial planner to develop your credit utilization strategy.

Various strategies can help individuals become smart credit consumers and reap the rewards that a strong financial reputation has to offer.