Taxes are complicated, confusing and sometimes intimidating. Even though you might want to put everything on the shelf after getting through another filing season, a checkup could be in order.
“If your car is running fine, you shouldn’t wait until it breaks down to get it tuned up or have routine maintenance,” says Michelle Mahle, CPA, director of tax at SS&G.
There are valuable tax opportunities you may be missing. Certain tax positions or reporting could help your business mitigate risk.
“You have an opportunity to have somebody independent of what’s been done historically to come in with a fresh set of eyes,” she says.
Frank Taylor, CPA, director of tax at SS&G, says it comes down to how you feel about your current tax situation.
“If nothing else, you can get peace of mind that everything is being handled correctly,” Taylor says.
Smart Business spoke with Mahle and Taylor about how a third-party checkup of your tax filings might uncover new opportunities and tax savings strategies.
How do you know whether your tax returns need a second glance?
First, this goes beyond the scope of just federal tax returns. It could include international, state and municipal tax compliance, as well as personal property and sales and use tax filings. An independent party can look at your business and say, ‘We should see this, and that’s a concern because it’s generally required with the business you’re operating.’ A third-party checkup can help you mitigate risk and exposure to audit, provide insight on tax strategies, and avail opportunities to secure tax credits and incentives unique to your industry.
It comes down to whether you feel comfortable. Maybe you’re unhappy about the taxes that you just paid, feel like you may be missing opportunities or just hope your next filing season will be different. A second glance or opinion may provide the peace of mind you need to stay focused on growing your business.
What are some examples of opportunities businesses could be missing?
Just looking at the restaurant industry, for example, there are organizations overlooking routine benefits available to them. They might be missing out on FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tip and work opportunity tax credits. Owners, previously paying alternative minimum tax (AMT), have found that their AMT credit carry forwards were handled improperly and when corrected resulted in substantial refunds. Many companies continue to improperly capitalize assets, not taking full advantage of accelerated depreciation deductions.
Business owners in general tend to be intimidated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). When they are under audit or receive a notice, they just assume the IRS is right. The number of IRS audits taking place is increasing steadily. Always consult with your service provider to find out how much experience they have handling these types of matters so that you can be poised with good information and tax strategies to mitigate your risk and exposure.
What should you look for when going to an independent party for a tax filing review?
You want someone with experience, particularly in specialty tax niche areas. There are a lot of service providers who perform very good basic federal tax compliance services. If you are feeling like your business is no longer vanilla, however, basic service may not be enough for you. The way people do business today is very different than the way business was done five years ago. Even small companies have international exposure, and almost every business crosses state lines.
You want an independent party to have the depth and experience in both specialized areas of taxation and industries. You also want tax experts who stay on the cutting edge of legislative changes and developments, and who can identify tax saving strategies and refund opportunities. The right third party can provide a well-rounded second glance to any industry, for any circumstances, and could bring you real money in the form of refunds or credits as a result.
Michelle Mahle, CPA, is a director in Tax at SS&G. Reach her at (440) 248-8787 or MMahle@SSandG.com.
Frank Taylor, CPA, is a director in Tax at SS&G. Reach him at (440) 248-8787 or FTaylor@SSandG.com.
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