You know it is that time of year again when pastors and church leaders in the U.S. are preparing their taxes. Church leaders have a big responsibility to make sure this is done right. It’s not simply a matter of paying taxes or getting a refund. The stakes are much higher.
It’s about accountability and integrity. While we are very familiar with the stories of individuals being investigated for an improper accounting of their finances, we typically think we’re immune to any potential problems. But that’s not necessarily the case!
It doesn’t matter the size of your church. It doesn’t matter the scope of your influence. Every church leader has the responsibility to take their personal finances seriously.
To that end I would like to offer 10 Tips for Effective Tax Preparation.
1. Be sure to check out your tax preparer’s qualifications.
While normally any tax preparer that makes their service available to the public would be reputable in nature, I encourage you to do your due diligence in asking for and verifying their qualifications to serve you in this way
2. Check out the preparer’s history.
This is simply prudent to see how long the preparer has been in business, and if you are a pastor you want to make sure they understand the issues of housing allowance and self-employment, federal, and state tax obligations of clergy.
3. Ask about service fees.
Like anything, before you buy make sure you know how much their fee is going to be. They may estimate it but make sure it feels right to you.
4. Ask to e-file your return.
It’s 2016 and paper is so yesterday. If they cannot e-file, you don’t want them.
5. Make sure the preparer is available.
It should go without saying that you need your preparer when you need your preparer. If they always seem to be gone or too busy, I’d look elsewhere.
6. Provide records and receipts.
Be sure you have all your receipts for business related expenses and certainly all those associated with your housing expenses. Be diligent in maintaining the records and receipts you need to be honest and aboveboard with the IRS and state.
7. Never sign a blank return.
Signing a blank return is like signing a blank check. You would never do the latter so don’t do the former.
8. Review your return before signing it.
Particularly when you are dealing with a preparer for the first time be sure you give the return a once over before signing it. Even if you are not a numbers-oriented person, be sure you and your spouse take the time to look everything over properly to be sure all your numbers align with that which you provided the preparer.
9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.
This is another due diligence issue. Be sure the preparer is careful to sign and include their PTIN with the IRS and state.
10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS.
While this is rare, if you ever do come across a tax preparer that is abusive or dishonest with your numbers, be sure to report them to the IRS. The last thing a pastor or church leader needs is to be implicated in financial incongruity needlessly because of the character flaw of the tax preparer.
These ten tips can help you be sure you are doing your best in gaining the best care and service for your tax preparation this year.
In fact, if you do not currently have a tax preparer I would like to recommend the company that prepares my personal taxes: Whittaker’s Accounting & Tax Service. Click here for a no-obligation inquiry
They are an outstanding firm with specialties in servicing pastors and their families. I have used them for eight years and have established an affiliate relationship with them. They work with church leaders all over the U.S., and I wholeheartedly endorse them to be of service to you.
Just click here to do an inquiry with Whittaker’s Accounting & Tax Service. One of their team members will contact you to see if working with them would be a good fit for you.
In the meantime, enjoy April 15th and have a happy and “prosperous” tax season!