Q&A: This retiree’s tax preparer allowed IRS fines to accumulate for 15 years. Now what?

Dear Liz: I have a question about an unethical accountant. I am a retiree living on my investments. My accountant continually put me on extension and every October told me how much to pay. Finally, I created an account with the state tax agency and discovered I was being billed for interest, fees and penalties for failing to pay estimated quarterly taxes. What really gets me angry is how I was never told I needed to pay these taxes each quarter. This has been going on at least 15 years. What are my options? Is there an entity that governs the behavior of accountants?

Answer: There is — if your tax preparer is actually an accountant. Some tax preparers use that title even if they don’t have an accounting credential, said Henry Grzes, lead manager for tax practice and ethics with the American Institute of CPAs.

If your tax preparer is in fact a certified public accountant, then you can make a complaint to your state’s board of accountancy. You can find a list of boards here. Otherwise you can consider contacting the Better Business Bureau, your state’s consumer protection agency or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Grzes said.

A good tax preparer will alert clients to ways they can reduce their tax bill and will discuss the reasons for filing an extension as well as the need to make quarterly estimated payments, Grzes said. But there are no federal regulations governing tax return preparation, although some states have such laws, he said.

For example, anyone who is physically in California and prepares tax returns for a fee, and who is not an attorney, CPA or enrolled agent, is required to register with the California Tax Education Council, Grzes said. The CTEC site has information about how to file a complaint against a tax preparer who isn’t governed elsewhere.

Q&A: Reducing taxes in retirement

Dear Liz: It appears required minimum distributions will force me to take an additional $3,500 per month from my retirement funds starting in four years at age 72. This added taxable draw will greatly impact my income tax liabilities as I’m now fully retired. Are there any strategies at this time to reduce the hit? […]

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Q&A: Digital is safer than paper

Dear Liz: You’ve advocated for going paperless. My preference for paper financial documentation over electronic versions is that paper provides “proof” in the event something compromises online or email reporting. What am I missing? Answer: Proof of what, exactly? That’s not a rhetorical question. If you don’t understand why you’re retaining a document, and what […]

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Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to understand and reduce taxes when selling your home. Also in the news: Why you need to learn your parents’ financial plans ASAP, how debt-related stress affects body and mind, and the goods and services that have actually dropped in price this year. How to Understand and Reduce Taxes When Selling […]

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Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Are reluctant home sellers too attached to their low rates? Also in the news: Are I bonds a good investment, a new episode of the Smart Money podcast on a travel nerd’s guide to Costa Rica, and the best time to buy cars, appliances, and other things that have been hard hit […]

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Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to get travel insurance without paying for it out of pocket. Also in the news: Hotels tap into hot amenity amid surging gas prices, what rising prices could mean for your retirement, and why you should know which financial phase you’re in. You Can Get Travel Insurance Without Paying for It […]

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Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to find the right business coach and avoid the wrong one. Also in the news: Why the 15/3 credit card hack is nonsense, how death-planning apps work, and the pros and cons of vacation loans. How to Find the Right Business Coach — and Avoid the Wrong One A good business […]

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How to reduce taxes when you sell your home

If your home’s value has soared, congratulations. If you decide to sell, beware. Financial advisor James Guarino says some clients don’t realize that home sale profits are potentially taxable until their returns are prepared — and by that time, they may have spent the windfall or invested the money in another house. ”They’re not happy […]

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Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What rising prices could mean for your retirement plans. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on student debt and money baggage, how guests can honor their budgets in peak wedding season, and ways to mitigate credit card use during inflation. What Rising Prices Could Mean for […]

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Q&A: A widow’s Social Security earnings problem

Dear Liz: My dear friend lost her husband a few years ago. The husband did something wrong with working and collecting Social Security, so they are now withholding her $2,000 monthly Social Security check, which is devastating to her. Can she be punished for what he did unbeknownst to her? She is stuck and doesn’t […]

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