Marin – Tax Preparation

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100 Stony Point Road, Suite 255
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 981-4697
(415) 529-6019

Serving Sonoma County

Services include Bookkeeping Clean-up, Finance Management & Financial Statements, QuickBooks Setup, Tax Preparation & Filing. Brands include .
License A133499 | DCID7075684015
Map of these Diamond Certified companies
Cities: Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, Sausalito, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Tiburon
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Why Trust Diamond Certified Tax Preparation Firms Rated Highest in Quality?

You are the customer. If your goal is to choose a tax preparation firm that will deliver high customer satisfaction and quality, you’ll feel confident in choosing a Diamond Certified tax preparation company. Each has been rated Highest in Quality in the most accurate ratings process anywhere. And you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. Here’s why the Diamond Certified ratings and certification process will help you find a top-rated tax preparation service and is unparalleled in its accuracy, rigor and usefulness:

1) Accuracy: All research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed, so you'll never be fooled by fake reviews.

2) Statistical Reliability: A large random sample of past customers is surveyed on an ongoing basis so the research results you see truly reflect a Diamond Certified company’s top-rated status.

3) Full Disclosure: By clicking the name of a company above you'll see the exact rating results in charts and read verbatim survey responses as well as researched articles on each qualified company.

4) Guaranteed: Your purchase is backed up with mediation and the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you can choose with confidence.

Click on the name of a Diamond Certified company above to read ratings results, researched articles and verbatim customer survey responses to help you make an informed decision.

More than 200,000 customers of local companies have been interviewed in live telephone calls, and only companies that score Highest in Quality in customer satisfaction–a 90+ on a 100 scale–as well as pass all of the credential-based ratings earn Diamond Certified. By requiring such a high score to qualify, the Diamond Certified program eliminates mediocre and poorly performing companies. Read detailed information about the ratings and certification process.

How to Choose
How to Choose a Marin County Tax Preparation Service

Between January and April of each year, tax preparation firms pop up in Marin County and the San Francisco Bay Area. You will find them in store fronts in San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and other easily accessible offices. Tax preparation is time consuming and complicated and many Marin County residents turn to tax preparation companies for assistance in preparing their tax reports. Concentrate your efforts to locate a tax preparation service on certified tax preparers who are educated and experienced....

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Between January and April of each year, tax preparation firms pop up in Marin County and the San Francisco Bay Area. You will find them in store fronts in San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and other easily accessible offices. Tax preparation is time consuming and complicated and many Marin County residents turn to tax preparation companies for assistance in preparing their tax reports. Concentrate your efforts to locate a tax preparation service on certified tax preparers who are educated and experienced.

Tax Preparers in Marin County Also Must Register with California Tax Authorities
The state of California has been regulating tax preparers for many years. Regulations help to eliminate some of the concerns that may arise when residents in San Anselmo, Larkspur, Corte Madera and anyone in the state select tax experts. In 2011, the Internal Revenue Service implemented a system to track and test tax preparers who charge a fee for their services. These preparers must register with the IRS. They receive a tax preparer tax identification number (PTIN) after they pass an exam proving their tax competence.

Marin County Tax Preparers Must Register with IRS
The IRS may reject returns that are signed by preparers who do not have a PTIN. Therefore, it should be a a red flag if your selected agent will not sign your form but charges you a fee. This may indicate that the preparer is not certified or qualified to prepare your tax forms. In most states across the country, anyone can complete a tax form and charge a fee for doing so. This means that the individual receiving tax preparation services may be subjected to inexperienced tax preparers.

No Registration Required for San Francisco Bay Area Non-Exempt Tax Preparers
Non-Exempt tax preparers in Marin County must register with the Franchise Tax Board. Tax preparers in Tiburon, Brentwood, Martinez, Ross and all of the San Francisco Bay Area must receive at least 60 hours of training in a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) approved education course to register. They also must obtain a tax preparer bond from an insurance or surety agent. Some preparers such as those with current CPA certifications and tax attorneys are exempt from this requirement. Non-exempt tax preparers must renew their registration annually, and to renew they must receive an additional 20 hours training in a CTEC approved course.

Types of Tax Preparation Companies in Marin County
Tax preparers in Marin County may be certified public accountants, lawyers, bank and trust officials and enrolled agents. Each tax preparer has a certain level of expertise, and due diligence is essential to ensure that you select an Marin County tax preparer who is knowledgeable enough to handle your tax situation. If your tax scenario includes complicated financial transactions, a CPA who specializes in such situations may be your best bet. If you are in the midst of a divorce and you have extremely valuable assets, a certified tax attorney may be able to guide you. Some enrolled agents specialize in certain areas, and you should, therefore, select a tax preparation firm that is knowledgeable about your specific case.

Professional Accounting or Bar Association Does Not Guarantee Tax Experience
The CPA designation does not automatically translate to tax expert; nor does membership with the California Bar Association. CPAs may be able to help you manage your finances and thus may help in creating an overall tax plan. Make sure that the CPA you select has experience in filing San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley, Berkley or whichever city in which you reside. A bonus of hiring a CPA tax preparation firm is that they can represent you if the IRS chooses to audit your return. Tax attorneys also can represent you in court and with the IRS when legal issues arise. Make sure that your counsel has tax filing experience. Bear in mind that legal representation and tax preparation do are not the same and you may need an attorney with experience in both areas.

Tax Experience Counts in Marin County
An employee working for a registered agency may not be as experience or have the same level of expertise as the owner of that firm. The person who signs your form as the preparer is ultimately responsible for the presentation of your information; therefore, if you have questions, you want to have access to this person. Avoid illegal tax preparers. There are thousands of tax preparers in Marin County who are not registered, and they may not have the necessary education or insurance bond requirements. These illegal tax preparers may not be qualified to address your tax situation and may make costly mistakes on your tax forms.

National Tax Preparation Chains Depend on Software Prompts
The events that transpire when you visit a tax preparer depend on the tax preparer type and your tax needs. Preparers at national franchises such as HR Block and Jackson Hewitt use tax software that prompts for certain information. These options are ideal if your tax situation is simple and you require a quick refund turn-around. If the preparer has no tax knowledge beyond the software prompts, and your tax and financial situation is complicated, you may want to consider spending your money on a professional tax preparation service in Marin County. Get a firm that can advise you on your current situation as well as prepare you for future events and tax savings.

Avoid Tax Preparation Companies that Guarantee Upfront Refunds
Watch out for firms that promise you upfront refunds and those that charge you according to the amount of your anticipated refund. Your goal is to find tax preparation firms that will help create the best presentation for your tax situation. Aggressively seeking out deductions is advantageous, but those who suggest underhanded or deviant ways to obtain a bigger refund may commit fraud. You want a tax preparation company that will find legal ways to reduce your tax liabilities. Also make sure the tax preparation company you select stands behind their work. Also, seek out firms that will be around when the height of the tax season is over. If the tax preparation disappears from localities in San Rafael, Freemont, Mill Valley or your San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood after April 15th, you may want to consider a different firm.

What to Expect
The tax preparer in Marin County will ask you a series of detailed questions on your first consult. These questions are meant to give the tax preparer an idea about your background so that they can present your tax case in the best light. You will need to provide the tax preparation company with proof of all information that you present, including W-2 and 1099 forms. If you paid tuition, bring proof of these payments, and if you had out of pocket medical expenses, bring those, as well. Provide the tax preparer with copies of major payments, social security numbers for all dependents and proof of changes, including adoptions and births, in your family. The tax preparer will discuss your current tax scenario and will point out deductions and credits that will help reduce your tax liability. The tax preparer will also help you develop strategies to help you reduce your tax burden for future years. If you missed some deductions from previous years, the tax preparer may help you determine the best way to recoup those credits. One strategy may be to file amended tax returns. 

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Know What You Want
What to ask yourself

When you shop for a tax preparation company in San Anselmo, Larkspur, Corte Madera or any community in Marin County, experience is paramount; so too is current knowledge of tax issues, laws and trends.  In addition to making sure that the company you select has the appropriate registrations and certifications, make sure you ask certain questions to help you find the best tax preparation company in Marin County.

1.     Do my tax situation and my finances warrant a tax preparation company?...

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When you shop for a tax preparation company in San Anselmo, Larkspur, Corte Madera or any community in Marin County, experience is paramount; so too is current knowledge of tax issues, laws and trends.  In addition to making sure that the company you select has the appropriate registrations and certifications, make sure you ask certain questions to help you find the best tax preparation company in Marin County.

1.     Do my tax situation and my finances warrant a tax preparation company?

2.     Does the tax preparation company have experience preparing returns for others in my situation?

3.     Does the tax preparation company maintain an office year round in Marin County?

4.     Do I want a Diamond Certified company that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Guarantee?

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What to Ask on the Phone
Questions to ask on the phone

You can save yourself time by asking a few questions over the phone.  This shortens your list of possibilities and prevents you from visiting companies that definitely cannot help with your tax presentation....

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You can save yourself time by asking a few questions over the phone.  This shortens your list of possibilities and prevents you from visiting companies that definitely cannot help with your tax presentation.

  1. Are you registered with the California Tax Board and the IRS?
  2. What tax services do you provide?
  3. Do you charge for the first meeting?
  4. In what area do you specialize? Do you prepare all returns?
  5. Do you help small businesses in ____ area (i.e. Tiburon, Brentwood or Martinez)?
  6. What are your rates?
  7. Do you charge hourly or do you charge for each form?
  8. Do you own memberships in any professional organizations?
  9. How long have you been preparing tax forms in ___ (i.e. Ross, San Rafael, or Novato) ?
  10. Can you represent me if I am audited?
  11. Do you maintain an office all year?
  12. I recently moved to _____ (i.e. Almonte, Belvedere Tiburon, Corte Madera); do you know the requirements of all the states where I am required to file?
  13. Has your Marin County tax preparation company earned and maintained a Diamond Certified rating?
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What to Ask in Person
Questions to ask in person

When you visit the Marin County tax preparation companies that are on your short list, ask questions that help you see the firm’s actual experience. You also want to understand the company’s processes and review its policy and procedures....

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When you visit the Marin County tax preparation companies that are on your short list, ask questions that help you see the firm’s actual experience. You also want to understand the company’s processes and review its policy and procedures.

  1. Who will sign my tax return?
  2. Is there an extra charge if you must obtain records for me?
  3. Can I have a copy of your written privacy policy?
  4. Do you meet state of California tax preparer insurance requirements?
  5. May I see your bond certificate?
  6. Will you represent me with the IRS if a situation arises?
  7. Can you represent me in the Marin County tax court?
  8. Is your registration/certification with CTEC current?
  9. Do you have proof that you meet the education requirements for Marin County Tax Preparers?
  10. Do you maintain an office in ______ (i.e. Dogtown, Mount Eden, and Larkspur) year round? Can I meet with you after April 15th for follow-ups?
  11. My tax situation is complicated; do you have experience addressing situations such as mine?
  12. How long will it take to complete my return?
  13. Will you provide me with a copy of my completed tax return?
  14. Will you go over the finished tax return with me?
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What to Ask References
Questions for references

Your best option is to choose a Diamond Certified tax preparation company. Every Diamond Certified tax preparation company in Marin County has passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality service from a tax preparation company in Marin County and the greater Bay Area, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company. You can go online to access Diamond Certified reports all certified companies....

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Your best option is to choose a Diamond Certified tax preparation company. Every Diamond Certified tax preparation company in Marin County has passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality service from a tax preparation company in Marin County and the greater Bay Area, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company. You can go online to access Diamond Certified reports all certified companies. That’s because all research is performed in live telephone interviews of actual customers, so you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews.

If you can’t find a Diamond Certified tax preparation company within reach, you’ll have to do some research on your own. Be sure to call some of the references provided by your tax preparer, but keep in mind, that the references you receive from the tax preparation company are not equal in value to the large random sample of customers surveyed during the Diamond Certified ratings process. That’s because your tax preparation company will provide references selected from customers that they know are satisfied instead of providing a random selection from all of their customers.

If you wish to call references on your own, ask for a list of the company’s 10 most recent customers. This will help avoid them giving you the names of only customers they know were satisfied.

  1. How long have you been using the tax preparation company in ______ (i.e. San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley or San Anselmo)?
  2. Was the tax preparation company professional?
  3. Do you believe you received personal care?
  4. Were you audited? Did the Marin County tax preparation company represent you?
  5. Were your questions answered adequately?
  6. Did they seem knowledgeable about current tax laws?
  7. Do you believe the helped you achieve the lowest tax liability possible?
  8. Would you use them again?
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Review Your Options
Find and Hire a Good Tax Preparation Expert in Marin County

By now you probably know enough to make a sound decision and select the best tax preparation expert in Marin County. Chances are you have also become quite knowledgeable on the latest tax laws. You, therefore, have a good idea of your next tax preparer’s required experience and expertise. You should also have a good idea of the rates in Larkspur, Corte Madera, Tiburon and Brentwood and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can now confidently select the company that meets your requirements....

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By now you probably know enough to make a sound decision and select the best tax preparation expert in Marin County. Chances are you have also become quite knowledgeable on the latest tax laws. You, therefore, have a good idea of your next tax preparer’s required experience and expertise. You should also have a good idea of the rates in Larkspur, Corte Madera, Tiburon and Brentwood and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can now confidently select the company that meets your requirements. Review the research you completed on the tax preparer and select the one that most closely match your criteria. Remember that your choice of tax preparation company may impact your tax liability; so, do one last review to make sure that the company you select can answer a firm yes to each of the questions below.

  1. Will they stand behind their work
  2. Will they represent me with the IRS or in tax court
  3. Will they keep my information confidential
  4. Will they consult me before taking risks with my tax presentation
  5. Will they make sure that I understand every aspect of my tax presentation?
  6. Will they provide strategies for future tax savings?
  7. Do they offer convenient hours?
  8. Will they be available after April 15th?
  9. Can I afford their services?
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How to Work With
Before you hire/how to attract the best companies

Your main goal is to find a tax expert who will minimize your tax liability. You want an ethical tax preparer that is competent in the areas you need help. Make sure you perform a background check on the preparer that you select. For example, check with the California Board of Accountancy to make sure that a CPA has current licensing and is in proper standing with the board. And, if your tax preparer is an attorney, find out if she is a member of the California Bar Association....

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Your main goal is to find a tax expert who will minimize your tax liability. You want an ethical tax preparer that is competent in the areas you need help. Make sure you perform a background check on the preparer that you select. For example, check with the California Board of Accountancy to make sure that a CPA has current licensing and is in proper standing with the board. And, if your tax preparer is an attorney, find out if she is a member of the California Bar Association. You can check on the IRS website to find out if enrolled agents have been cited for any activities that warranted disciplinary actions.

It is also crucial that you ensure that the tax preparation company you select is legally preparing taxes in San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and the San Francisco Bay area. This means that they should have current registrations, meet the CTEC education requirements and have the proper bonds. Even though the IRS now has rules that require registration of all paid tax preparers, remember that California also has strict rules regarding paid tax preparers.   You can easily verify that your tax preparer is legal on CTEC’s website.

Now that you’ve found
Set the ground rules after you select a Marin County tax preparer. Make sure that your tax preparer understands that you must have the final nod on all decisions concerning your tax presentation. Devise a contract that clearly states that they will check with you before making decisions and will not make assumptions about your information. Make sure that they provide unavoidable judgment calls in writing. They should also provide the logic leading to their decision. Both the IRS and CTEC require that paid preparers sign returns that they complete. Make sure that your preparer abides by this rule. Your preparer’s signature along with her ID is an indication that she is willing to stand behind her work and also is a mechanism that the tax boards can use to hold preparers accountable for their work. Also, make certain that you get a copy for your records.

Ways to make their job easier
You must do your homework before hiring a Marin County tax preparation company.  Once you select a tax preparer, there are steps you can take to make sure that you get the most out of the partnership.

Ask for an initial consultation—these are usually free. Sometimes tax preparers will come to your home, even if you live in smaller localities such as Belvedere Tiburon or Almonte.  Take lots of notes during the initial consultation, and make sure that you provide the tax preparer with every piece of information that he needs to complete your return. Ask for a checklist of the items they will need from you, and present this information to the tax preparer early.  

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Be a Good Customer
How Can You Be a Good Tax Preparation Customer?

It's the tax preparer’s responsibility to present your tax situation in the best light and obtain the lowest tax liability for you. You play a huge role in helping the tax preparation company reach this goal. Follow these simple steps when you hire a Marin County tax preparation company....

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It's the tax preparer’s responsibility to present your tax situation in the best light and obtain the lowest tax liability for you. You play a huge role in helping the tax preparation company reach this goal. Follow these simple steps when you hire a Marin County tax preparation company.

You will give your tax preparer personal information such as social security numbers and driver’s license for each family member that you will include on your return. You also will need to provide income and tax information along with any expense that can be used to reduce your tax liability. Don’t forget dependent care expenses and retirement contributions, as these credits also can help to reduce the tax amount that you owe.

  • Keep storage with files for important items:  If you are near the filing deadline, this point may be mute for now, but remember it for next year.  Track all of your expenses and store the information in one place. Make files for your business records, mortgage and other long-term documents.  Be prepared to take this entire storage system to your preparer—make sure it is neat and organized. At the very least, make a checklist of all the items that you must take to the preparer.  Make sure that you have everything on your list checked off before venturing to your preparers office.  If you have all of the necessary documents, your preparer will be able to complete your return more quickly.
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  • Gather all necessary documentation: Gather all supporting documentation and organize it.  Do not toss it all in a shoe box and leave it up to your tax preparer to sort.  If you are paying by the hour, it will cost you.  Besides, you do not want to bring out the grumpiness in your preparer.  Remember, you want the lowest tax liability possible, and if your preparer must sort through mounds of unrelated documents and receipts, he may miss a few.
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  • Maintain logs of your activities: This is especially important if you own a business or travel for work.  Record automobile, travel and entertainment expenses, and keep track of your laptop and mobile phone usage. In fact, log any business related expense and make sure you attach receipts where applicable.  It is a good idea to keep your cancelled checks or credit card slips especially if you can’t find your original receipts and must recreate them (if you recreate receipts, make sure you mark them as recreated so no one accuses you of forging documents)
  • Previous Returns:  Your storage should also have a file for past years returns.  Your tax preparer will be interested in those to see what you’ve been doing in the past. If you missed something, she can help you recoup.  If you did something wrong, she can help you amend. Also, the Marin County tax preparer may be able to copy some information from your past returns and will appreciate the time he saves.
  • Display a Professional Attitude: Although the tax preparer will be sorting through some very private areas of your life, remember that your relationship is a business arrangement.  Be courteous and cooperative, and display the attitude you wish to receive.  Provide complete information quickly and follow the advice they give. You are free to deviate from their advice, but if you find yourself with a higher tax liability next year, remember that you chose to ignore your preparer’s suggestions.
  • Pay Promptly: Always pay for services promptly whether you are requesting one-time services or you are building an ongoing relationship.  Also, remember, if the tax board audits you, you want your preparer to represent you without prejudice.

Why would you want to be a good customer?
Tax preparation companies in Marin County appreciate customers who are straightforward, honest and easy to work with. Your good customer behavior sets the tone from your end and creates an environment conducive to a good relationship. Things may very well go smoother and any problems may be more easily resolved. 

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Check the Work
Check work against invoice

Do not allow misunderstandings about invoicing to tarnish your relationship with your tax preparer. Ask questions and get everything in writing. Do not leave anything to uncertainty. Take every opportunity to clarify your goals and the services for which you are paying....

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Do not allow misunderstandings about invoicing to tarnish your relationship with your tax preparer. Ask questions and get everything in writing. Do not leave anything to uncertainty. Take every opportunity to clarify your goals and the services for which you are paying.

Tax preparation companies in Marin County may charge per form, schedule, worksheet or any combination of these items. Hourly rates are not typical for tax preparation, but it is possible. Get an itemization of what you will pay for before the company begins work on your file. Find out when consulting fees are due and pay accordingly. 

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Written Warranties
Ask for written warrantees

You can reasonably expect the Marin County tax preparation company to back up the work they perform. Get their guarantee to stand behind their work in writing.

No matter where you are located in Marin County, be it San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley or anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, tax preparers will typically review your return again if the IRS notifies you that there is an error on your return. Still, you should get this service in writing....

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You can reasonably expect the Marin County tax preparation company to back up the work they perform. Get their guarantee to stand behind their work in writing.

No matter where you are located in Marin County, be it San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley or anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, tax preparers will typically review your return again if the IRS notifies you that there is an error on your return. Still, you should get this service in writing.

If tax preparer is at fault for the error, the preparer’s liability insurance pays.  When errors occur, the IRS may assess penalties and interest and you should be able to recover these fees from your tax preparer—unless your contract states otherwise. Sometimes tax preparers will refund fees or a percentage of the fees if they make mistakes on your return.  Be sure to get the stipulations for recovering fees in writing.

Some tax preparation companies will offer only to serve as witnesses if you are audited, while others will offer to represent you during an audit. Representation usually comes with an additional price tag, and this service should be itemized in your contract.

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Top 10 Requests
Top Service Requests

Business Financial Planning
Tax preparation companies in Marin County provide comprehensive tax strategies to help businesses remain compliant and deal with business issues. They focus on reducing tax liabilities.

Business Tax Return
Marin County tax consultants advise businesses on the best tax strategies to maximize business refunds and minimizing business income taxes...

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Business Financial Planning
Tax preparation companies in Marin County provide comprehensive tax strategies to help businesses remain compliant and deal with business issues. They focus on reducing tax liabilities.

Business Tax Return
Marin County tax consultants advise businesses on the best tax strategies to maximize business refunds and minimizing business income taxes

E-Filing
Electronic filing is a quick easy way to send your return to the IRS. Because the format is easy for the IRS to process, if you are due a refund, when you select direct deposit, you may receive your money even more quickly. According to the IRS, electronic filing cuts your filing time in half when compared to filing a paper return.

Financial Consulting & Planning
Financial planning and consulting involves an overhaul of your entire financial situation. The financial consultant may help you plan for retirement, set goals for funding your children’s educational needs, plan your estate and even help you develop a satisfactory budget.

International Tax Planning
With the emergence technological advances, businesses and individuals in Marin County are making use of a global market. International tax planning involves an analysis of individual or business needs. The tax preparation company then uses their analysis to devise strategies to manage international and domestic tax requirements.

Personal Income Tax Return
Personal income tax return involves creating tax strategies to maximize income tax refund and minimize personal tax liability.

Tax Planning
Your tax preparer will analyze your current practices and will determine an overall strategy to minimize your tax exposure.

Tax Audit Representation
Tax audit representation can include representation before the IRS or California tax authorities. Representation can include written correspondence or physical appearance in tax court.

Tax Return Preparation
Many tax preparation companies in Marin County offer preparation services for individuals and all forms of businesses

Transaction Structuring
The tax preparer reviews upcoming transactions and provides suggestions or alternatives that will help reduce your tax impact.

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If Things Go Wrong
The Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee

Diamond Certified window contractors are backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. If the tax preparation company is Diamond Certified and you can’t resolve the issue by talking with the owner, contact the mediation department at [email protected] or call 800-738-1138....

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Diamond Certified window contractors are backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. If the tax preparation company is Diamond Certified and you can’t resolve the issue by talking with the owner, contact the mediation department at [email protected] or call 800-738-1138.

Easy Ways To End Conflict with Corte Madera Tax Preparers
The easiest way to end conflict with Marin County tax preparers is to take preventative steps. Draw up a solid contract that details the work you expect and the agreed upon cost of this work.  Your contract cannot be too detailed.  Spell out all expectations and itemize every cost.  When everyone knows what is expected, room for conflict is minimized.

If conflict does occur, meet with your tax preparer immediately and address it professionally. Discuss the situation calmly with the tax preparer and provide evidence of your claims. Remain within the guidelines of your contract, IRS and CTEC rules.  Be willing to work with the tax preparer to resolve the issue and do not participate in shouting matches.  Try to come up solutions that are comfortable for you and your tax preparer.

If after you have tried all options to resolve the conflict you’re still unhappy, you can file a complaint with the IRS or with the Marin County Superior Court.

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Glossary of Terms
Tax Preparation Glossary of Terms
Photo: Davis & Company (2013)

Tax! How a three-letter word can render so much anxiety is mind boggling.  The U.S. tax code is extensive and it changes frequently.  Its level of detail and expanse makes it impossible for any one person to grasp every aspect of the code.

This may be the reason tax preparers often specialize in certain areas rather than presume expert knowledge in all areas.  You should familiarize yourself with some key terms so that you can communicate with your tax preparer and local tax authorities. ...

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Tax! How a three-letter word can render so much anxiety is mind boggling.  The U.S. tax code is extensive and it changes frequently.  Its level of detail and expanse makes it impossible for any one person to grasp every aspect of the code.

This may be the reason tax preparers often specialize in certain areas rather than presume expert knowledge in all areas.  You should familiarize yourself with some key terms so that you can communicate with your tax preparer and local tax authorities. 

Always ask questions if there are items on your return or in your tax plan that you do not understand.

ACH credit
The ACH credit process allows you to move your money by telling your bank to debit your account and credit the state's bank account.

Also known as: Automated Clearing House Credit

ACH debit
The ACH debit procedure allows you to move money by telling the state to electronically debit a bank account you own for the amount you owe to the state.

Also known as: Automated Clearing House debit

adopted child
This is a child you have legally adopted. After legal adoption, the child is considered yours with equal status of a child related to you by blood. Before legal adoption, the child is considered yours for head of household purposes as long as the child was placed in your home by a legal organization.

AGI
AGI is the acronym for adjusted gross income. It is your net income from all sources minus all California payment adjustments.

Also known as: Adjusted gross income

AMT
Congress enacted AMT or Alternative Minimum Tax rules in 1969 to ensure that the rich people pay taxes even if they are eligible for enough deductions that lower or completely eliminate their tax liability. 

Also known as: Alternative Minimum Tax

annual report
Annual reports summarize an organization's activities that occur during the year. It can also be a statistical profile of California individuals and people in business who pay taxes.

annulment
If you were married in the year, but the marriage was later annulled, you will be treated as if you weren't married during that year. Treatment of your marital status can greatly impact your tax liability.

audit
Audits are official inspections of your return, typically by an independent group.

authentication
This process shields your info either via a login, or some other way, by authorizing the identity of groups on both parts of an internet trade before information exchange.

back taxes
Back taxes are basically overdue taxes.

BOE
BOE is a California State agency that administers sales and use, property, and special taxes.

Also known as: Board of Equalization

CalFile
CalFile is a free, direct e-file that California residents can use to file personal income tax returns.

California public records act
The California Public Records Act gives the residents of California access to information that is in possession of an authorized public group.

capital gains tax
Capital gains tax refers to the tax that businesses must pay on the profits they make from sales.

casualty
A casualty is a high amount of damage done when a large scale catastrophe hits such as tsunamis and tornados.

credits
Credits are ways to reduce your tax amount. You can receive tax credits for payments such as tuition and energy conservation expenses.

customer service number (CSN)
Assigned to taxpayers each year by the Franchise Tax Board, the customer service number is a combination of your social security number and a four digit number. It is used to authenticate taxpayers and ensure confidentiality.

deductions
Deductions lower the amount of payment on which tax is due. You may choose to itemize your deductions or take advantage of the standard deduction.

dependent
Dependent are people that depend on you for care.  Claiming dependents on your return increases your personal exemptions.  You also may qualify for certain tax benefits when you claim dependents.

direct deposit
Direct deposit is an automatic payment procedure that lets tax preparation companies deposit your refunded tax money into your bank account.

disposable earnings
Disposable earnings are an employee's total earned payment minus legal reductions, which can include social security, state and federal income taxes.

earned income
Earned income includes wages plus salaries, tips and professional fees, along with net self-employment income, and any other compensation that you receive for performing.

earnings withholding order
This order is a continuous levy on a portion of your earnings. Earnings Withholding Orders are issued to individuals who owe an unresolved debt rendered by the California courts.

earnings withholding orders for taxes (for employers)
An Earnings Withholding Order for Taxes is a continuing levy on a percentage of a taxpayer's earnings. They are issued for taxpayers who owe an unresolved delinquent tax debt.

EDD
The California Employment Development Department is a state agency that manages California payroll taxes.

Also known as: Employment Development Department

E-file
The E-File process electronically transmits your tax report to the IRS.

EFT
EFT is an acronym for electronic funds transfer. It is a convenient method of payment that helps prevent defaults on installment agreement. The effieciency of the EFT process also contributes to cost savings.

Also known as: Electronic Funds Transfer

encryption
Encryption methods help to ensure that only those you authorize can view your personal information. Encryption changes info into a form that is securely sent via the Internet. Once the data has been moved, it is translated using an encryption key.

filing status
Taxpayers are grouped in one of five categories.  These categories are referred to as filing statuses. Your filing status determines your tax bracket and how tax rules are applied to your situation.

financial hardship
Financial hardship occurs when you are experiencing extreme difficulties that prevent you from paying your tax bill. If you can’t pay your taxes upfront all at once, you may be able to claim financial hardship and make monthly payments to avoid back taxes.

form 1040
Form 1040 is the standard form that individuals use to file their annual tax report.

form 1099-misc
Form 1099-Misc is used to report miscellaneous income. Self-employed workers and workers who are not employees typically receive Form 1099-MISC from their clients.

form W-2
Employers issue Form W-2 to their employees.  It reports the employee’s annual income and any taxes or other deductions that reduced the employee’s income.

FTB
FTB is an authorized organization of California that is responsible for collecting the state's personal and business income taxes.

Also known as: Franchise Tax Board

gross earnings
Gross earnings include wages, plus salary, commissions, and bonuses, vacation pay, or, basically, anything an employer pays an employee for personal services.

gross income
Gross income includes all payments you received from wages and salaries, market products, land, and services from all sources. Your gross income includes no deductions or adjustments.

head of household
You can claim the head of household status if you have dependents that depend on you for at least 50 percent of their care. 

income
Income refers to monies you receive from investments and for services rendered.

innocent spouse
For joint return filers, the spouses are normally equally responsible for all tax liabilities, penalties and interest. You or your spouse may qualify for innocent spouse status if you meet certain legal requirements. This status relieves you of your responsibility to pay joint tax liabilities, penalties, and interest.

installment agreement
You may request to pay your tax liability in monthly installments if you cannot pay your taxes upfront.

international tax
International taxes are taxes levied by foreign countries for conducting business in that country. 

itemized deductions
Itemized deductions are expenses that you claim to reduce your tax liability. Some itemized deductions must meet IRS limits before they can be claimed, and your itemized deduction should be greater than the standard deduction to warrant itemizing in the first place.

levy
A levy is a legal order from the court that compels a third group to withhold a portion of your payments to eliminate a debt.

Also known as: wage garnishment or wage assessment

liens
liens are authorized claims against personal property to eliminate a debt.

magi
The modified adjusted gross income is used to limit tax reductions or credits. Modified adjusted gross income can be confusing because its definition changes depending on the tax credit or deduction in question.

nonrefundable renter's credit
The Nonrefundable Renter's Credit is a personal income tax credit that you can use to to offset your tax liability; however, you must have a tax liability to claim the credit.

nonresident alien
For any period that you are neither a resident alien nor a U.S. citizen, you are a nonresident alien. Nonresident aliens typically cannot claim the head of household filing status and they must file form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ to report U.S. income and pay applicable taxes.

OIC
OIC is an acronym for offer in compromise. The offer in compromise program allows taxpayers to pay a lower amount of their non-disputed tax liability.  To qualify for an OIC, you cannot have income, assets or means to pay the tax bill now or in the foreseeable future.

payroll tax
Payroll taxes include the amounts that your employer withholds from your wages to pay for federal income taxes. Your portion of the FICA taxes that allocates to social security and Medicare also are included in payroll taxes.

personal exemption
Personal exemptions help to reduce your tax bill. Each taxpayer is alloted a personal exemption plus one exemption for each dependent.

phase-in and phase-out limits
Phase-in and phase-out limits are the dollar thresholds in the tax law at which you as the taxpayer become eligible or ineligible for credits and deductions.

power of attorney
Granting power of attorney to someone allows that person to legally make decisions on your behalf.  You can also use power of attorney documents to allow a designated person to communicate with tax authorities regarding issues that impact your tax liability.

property tax
Property is local tax assessed on property that you own.

ready return
Residents of California can file their state taxes via Ready Return without incurring filing fees. The state uses information from your last return to prefill the state tax return. 

required e-file
Tax preparers throughout the state of California who prepared at least 100 California income tax returns per year must e-file the returns they prepare. Beginning in 2011, the IRS also has enacted a similar e-file requirement for tax preparers.

separate property
Separate property refers to property that a couple owned separately before marrying. It is also property that each spouse owns obtains after marriage and own separately. The spouse who owns the property may acquire the property through inheritance, bequest, as a gift or may purchase the property with separate funds.

standard deduction
Standard deduction refers to the basic deduction that taxpayers may subtract from their incomes.  You may choose to take the standard deduction rather than itemizing expenses. Your standard deduction is determined by your filing status.

taxable payment
The portion of your income on which tax is applied is referred to as taxable income

use tax
States that charge a sales tax apply a use tax when residents purchase goods via the Internet or out of state where no sales taxes apply. This means that you may pay a use tax if you purchase goods for use in the San Francisco Bay Area from a state that does not charge a sales tax.

withholding
Withholding refers to the amounts that your employer retains from your earnings.  The employer uses this portion of your earnings to pay taxes on the amount you earned.

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Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ for Local Tax Preparation Services

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified tax preparer?...

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Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified tax preparer?
A: Diamond Certified helps you choose a tax preparer with confidence by offering a list of top-rated local companies who have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Only tax preparers rated Highest in Quality earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. So you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified tax preparer.

Q: Can I count on a local tax preparation company to help me complete my business and personal taxes?
A: If you were prudent in your research and you selected a capable tax preparation firm, you can expect them to efficiently complete your business taxes.  Tax preparation companies with expertise in business taxes often will provide services that include business tax preparation, financial reporting and payroll services.  They may even give you advice on the most efficient ways to operate your business and avoid excessive tax exposure. Personal income taxes for business owners are often included in small business tax preparation services. 

Q: What additional services do tax preparation companies offer?
A: Typically tax preparation companies offer bookkeeping and payroll services, they prepare financial statements, and offer other general ledger services.

Q: Are tax preparation companies qualified to provide financial planning services?
A: The response to this question depends on the tax preparation company that you select.  Many tax preparation companies offer financial planning services and may help you with forecasting, tax planning and strategies and business succession.

Q: Do all tax preparation companies automatically offer electronic filing as part of their tax return preparation services?
A: Most tax preparation companies offer electronic filing as part of their tax preparation packages.  If you selected a preparer that completes at least 100 returns per year, IRS and state of California regulations requires that the preparer submit returns electronically.

Q: I have not received my W-2; what should I do?
A: Your employer must mail your W-2 by January 31.  If by February 15, you do still have not received your W2, contact the IRS for assistance.  Payees also must receive 1099s by February 15. The Alameda County can also assist you in obtaining missing forms. Remember, however, that the more preliminary ground work you cover before going to the tax preparation company, the sooner your return will be completed.

Q: How long will it take to complete my return?
A: The time it takes to complete your return depends on the complexity of your tax situation.  A simple tax return with relatively little issues may be completed in less than a day.  A complex return, may take much longer.  The time to locate forms and coordinate information may extend the time to complete your form. Delivering organized, well-documented information also helps to speed up the time it takes to complete your return.

Q: Who is responsible if my preparer makes a mistake on my return?
A:  If there are errors on your return, the IRS will charge you for any applicable penalties and interest.  You can usually recoup these amounts, and get the tax preparer to correct your return without charge if the preparer is at fault. If you selected a reputable tax preparer, chances are the preparer will do whatever it takes to correct your situation without any additional costs for you. Of course, this depends on the contract you signed.  Make sure this issue is clear in your contract.  If the fault is yours, the preparer may charge you to amend your return and you may not be able to recover the penalties and fees from your preparer.

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Consumer Agencies
Consumer & Professional Associations for Tax Preparation Services

Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation (http://www.acatcredentials.org/)
California Department of Consumer Affairs (http://dca.ca.gov/)
California Society of Enrolled Agents (http://www.csea.org/)
California State Board of Equalization (http://www.boe.ca.gov/)
California Tax Service Center (http://taxes.ca.gov/Income_Tax/orms.shtml)...

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Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation (http://www.acatcredentials.org/)
California Department of Consumer Affairs (http://dca.ca.gov/)
California Society of Enrolled Agents (http://www.csea.org/)
California State Board of Equalization (http://www.boe.ca.gov/)
California Tax Service Center (http://taxes.ca.gov/Income_Tax/orms.shtml)

California Taxpayers Association (http://www.caltax.org/)
Federation of Tax Administrators (http://www.taxadmin.org/)
Internal Revenue Service (http://www.irs.gov/)
National Association of Tax Professionals (http://www.natptax.com/Pages/default.aspx)
National Society of Accountants (http://www.nsacct.org/)
National Society of Tax Professionals (http://nstp.org/index.php)
National Tax Association (http://www.ntanet.org/)
State of California Franchise Board (https://www.ftb.ca.gov/index.shtml?disabled=true)
The State Bar of California (http://www.calbar.ca.gov/)

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Industry Information
Marin County Tax Preparation Information
Popular Tax Preparation Software BrandsTypes of Tax Preparation Services Available in Marin County Cities Served Zip Codes Served
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