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Your Tax Prep Guide for 2014

Lisa Alcalay Klug




As winter rolls into spring, that can only mean one thing: tax time. Dealing with that annual headache is enough to make anyone grumpy. To help make the process a little less stressful, utilize these helpful tax prep resources.

Steven Zelin, also known as the Singing CPA, is one of those unusual people who actually wishes others “a tax deductible day!” Each year, he conducts a free tax seminar for artists in New York City. No matter where you are, you can find plenty of tips for preparing for tax season, such as his free financial organizer and helpful spreadsheets.

There are several other places where you can go for help. Here are a few.

1. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. The VITA program offers assistance for individuals with annual income under $52,000. Low-income tax clinics are located nationwide.

2. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly.  The TCE offers helps taxpayers over age 60.

3. AARP. A similar service to the TCE is available from AARP for low or moderate income taxpayers, with special attention for the 60 and up set. For more information, contact taxaide@aarp.org or call 888-OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).

4. Military OneSource Tax Hotline. Help is also available for the military by contacting the Military OneSource Tax Hotline at (800-730-3802).

5. The Taxpayer Advocate Service. This agency reports directly to Congress and offers assistance resolving problems with the IRS (877-777-4778).

Of course, you can also call the IRS with your questions, at these toll-free numbers: (800) 829-1040, the tax help line for individuals and (800) 829-4933, the service for businesses and specialty tax questions. Keep in mind, however, when trying to contact the IRS directly, you might encounter delays. The IRS budget has been cut, and Zelin points out that will likely result in increased hold times for taxpayers calling with questions or for information. Try their site, http://www.irs.gov, which is filled with tons of other tips.

The Singing CPA has another important piece of advice for freelancers and the self-employed. The IRS has announced that taxpayers may use a “simplified option” when figuring their home office deduction for 2013, he says. But if you use their new method, the maximum amount they are allowing you to deduct is $1,500. “Most taxpayers are better off tracking the actual expenses since it will likely result in a higher deduction,” Zelin advises.

Once you’ve filed your tax return, Zelin has a nifty free site where you can check the status of your federal and state refund, wherever you are.

Award-winning journalist Lisa Alcalay Klug is an expert Manilla.com blogger, author, public speaker and coach. She has written for The New York Times, Fodor’s, Forbes, Shape, Huffington Post and many other publications.

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