New Tax Bill: Christmas Gift or Lump of Coal?

As this blog “goes to press,” H.R.1, To provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018 — aka the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – is undergoing its final vote to be passed by Congress. President Trump has promised to sign it before Christmas.

Ho, ho, ho!! Is this a gift or a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking? Well, as is often the answer with taxes — It Depends. This tax bill is packed with changes for almost every individual and business U.S. taxpayer. Whether that is a good change or a bad change depends on your circumstances. It also depends on your ability to do tax planning or to hire a qualified tax professional to help you to navigate through the planning process.

Most people don’t have the time to keep up with tax law changes. Interpreting tax law changes is also daunting. If you decide to hire a professional, how do you decide where to get reliable and accurate tax advice?

 

Ask any tax professional you consider engaging these three questions, and make sure you feel good about the answers:

 

  1. How Do You Keep Up with Changing Tax Laws?

Tax laws are changing now, and they will continue to change. It’s important to work with a tax professional who keeps up, so you don’t have to. A qualified tax professional should be able to describe attending conferences, webinars, or other continuing education every year to stay current.

 

  1. What are Your Experience and Credentials?

Tax preparation is an unregulated industry where anyone can participate. Ask all tax professionals you are considering for examples of experience with different tax situations, client types, and complex issues. Working with a credentialed professional, like a CPA or Enrolled Agent, helps ensure the person is qualified. Finally, ask for references – and contact them.

 

  1. How Do You Communicate with your Clients?

Feeling comfortable with your tax professional’s communication style and manner is important. Does the tax professional regularly communicate with and educate her or his clients? Is she or he available if a tax-related question or issue comes up, even after the tax deadline?

 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes tax planning even more important than ever. If you need help figuring out whether you got a gift or a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking in 2017, ask these three important questions to find a qualified tax professional to advise and educate you.