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Subject says it all. I need tax advice. While I know that the Fool community has the best of intentions and probably more than a few very sharp people who really know what they're talking about, the topic is too important to simply act on free advice received on a community bulletin board. I don't think "but the guy on fool.com said..." would fly in the face of an auditor.

So I need a professional tax advisor. I don't like accountants because I've dealt with too many of them and have found that very few of them actually know what they're talking about. The majority just want to collect your money in April, fill out your return, and see-ya-next-year. If and when you do get audited, they just say "but I only filled out the return based on what the client told me!!" and disclaim all responsibility for error. And in the past when I did discover errors they had made that cost me thousands, they NEVER apologized. The best they offer is to re-do the returns at "no additional charge" (the nerve).

So that leaves, I guess, tax attorneys (very expensive option and probably a bit overkill as my tax situation isn't THAT complicated), tax preparers like H&R Block, and maybe CFPs & other financial planners/advisors?? I really just don't know where to turn.

I'll give a for-instance. I have a traditional IRA that comprises 100% nondeductible contributions. My basis is actually greater than the current value since it lost some value. So I was thinking, great, I'll convert it to a Roth and owe nothing. Ah but wait, I didn't know until recently about the pro-rata rule. The value of my old SEP-IRA would be aggregated and therefore I would have owed tax on the conversion. This is the kind of stuff that is NOT intuitive to someone who doesn't know the tax code very well. Well, at least it wasn't intuitive to me, and I'm glad I found out before I made the conversion. But I'm scared that there are thousands of other little tax nuances unbeknownst to me that might bite me on the behind of I start mucking around with my money on my own.

To be honest, I really need comprehensive financial planning. But that's a whole 'nother story, and at this time of year, the most important thing I need to concentrate on are tax strategies, since my rates are almost surely going up next year.

Help!
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You don't have legal problems with taxes. A tax attorney isn't necessary.

I don't like accountants because I've dealt with too many of them and have found that very few of them actually know what they're talking about. The majority just want to collect your money in April, fill out your return, and see-ya-next-year.

During tax season is the wrong time to be asking tax planning questions. It is too late for planning. You may have a better resulting with ask questions during a quieter time year.

If and when you do get audited, they just say "but I only filled out the return based on what the client told me!!" and disclaim all responsibility for error. And in the past when I did discover errors they had made that cost me thousands, they NEVER apologized. The best they offer is to re-do the returns at "no additional charge" (the nerve).

Tax prepares are not mind readers. They should be asking detailed questions, and preparing the return based on information provided. Reasonable expectations is that they will fix their errors without charge, and be liable for any penalties due to their mistakes.

I understand the problems with incompetent tax prepares. An in-law's tax preparer created a large mess, and died in an accident just before she was audited. Her sister felt his company should fix the problems they created. Given the mess was created through their incompetency, I didn't want them talking to the IRS.

An Enrolled Agent can represent you with the IRS. It is not a requirement for a tax preparer, but gives a little more confidence that they are a competent tax preparer.

Have you asked friends or coworkers for recommendations? They may give you recommendations for local independent tax prepares. Tax season is approaching. If you are going to interview and try to find someone for 2012 taxes it should be soon.



Finding a financial planner that can be trusted is difficult. I haven't found one that I would allow to manage a significant amount of my assets.

A financial planner who you pay (fee based) as opposed to commission based avoids some of the conflict of interest and would be more likely to give you good advice.
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To be honest, I really need comprehensive financial planning. But that's a whole 'nother story, and at this time of year, the most important thing I need to concentrate on are tax strategies, since my rates are almost surely going up next year.

Before you break your arm patting yourself on the back for not waiting until the last minute, good luck finding a tax advisor, making an appointment, meeting, and acting on recommendations in time to affect 2012 taxes. Pity you didn't think about this when there was time to do something about it.

Finding a fee-based financial planner with nothing to sell you but expertise should be your first step. That person can probably point you toward a good tax advisor. Flailing about at taxes in a planning vacuum could do more harm than good.

That said, your best bet for getting advice you can use this year is here. For example, we've been talking about the Roth conversion issue you mentioned since the law changed in 2010. There are some really knowledgeable people here who volunteer their time and expertise, and we try to give references you can follow up to verify what you've been told.

So, feel free to ask away.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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With regard to a financial planner I would say a fee ONLY planner from one of the following organizations is your best place to find someone with a legal fiduciary duty to make recommendations in your best interest. Fee based advisors may still have some conflict of interest involved. So I would go here:

http://www.napfa.org/ or http://garrettplanningnetwork.com/

Garrett used to have a relationship with Motley Fool that some of their advisors gave a discount to Fool members. There used to be a reference to it on the Garrett site. I don't see that now but I'd ask anyway. You can search by state/zipcode.

I saw one in 2009 before retiring and was very satisfied with his guidance. But he left Garrett and I moved across country.

I also echo the use of an "Enrolled Agent" for the tax prep. Look here:

http://www.naea.org/
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