Monday, February 18, 2008

why I do my taxes twice

I always get a funny look when I tell people that I do my tax twice. Yes, I do my own tax. Yes, I pay an accountant to do it again. How much tax you pay is a function of how much you know about the tax system and rules. Consider that between state, local, federal, and sales taxes, I don't have any solid numbers, but we can guess at 25% to 30% of your money goes to the government to be spend on your behave.

Every year between Jan to March, I'm not working for myself or the company, I'm working for the government. Luckily for us, U.S. system of tax has incentive for certain type of activities. Just like a bonus from the company for doing the right thing. IRS gives some money back to you for doing the right thing. Unlike the company bonus, where the boss is responsible to determine how much you deserve. IRS is NOT responsible to give back your money, you have ask for it. In the extreme case, you have to prove what you ask for is true, through an audit. Filing your tax forms is just like writing your annual review. You want to show off your activities for the maximum impact because in tax rules what you do is as important as why and how you do it.

Back to the original question, why do I do my taxes twice? Because I want to learn from the professional without spending years on a degree. I just want to learn the important points that applies to my situation. I do the taxes my way as well as I can. Then I take it to the accountant so he can do it again as well as he can. The difference is where my knowledge was lacking. I'm not paying the accountant to do my taxes, I'm paying the accountant for his knowledge and training and take the time to teach me. With that knowledge, I can do better planning for the upcoming year.

why I use Quicken (part 3) - finish your taxes faster and maximum your deductions

Here are the first 2 parts:
Part 1)why I use Quicken

Part 2) end of the month Quicken activities

I'm almost done with my taxes! Every year, my taxes gets more and more complicated and the number of forms get higher and higher. I suppose, in some strange way, that is a good thing. I rather be paying taxes than not. Yes, I still do my own taxes. Yes, I pay an accountant to do it over again.

Quicken help me to organize my spending records so it's much easier to figure out my expenses and deductions for tax. All through out the year, I mark the business related income and expenses. By this time of year, I ran an income / expense report in Quicken, exported the data to Excel. I do a bit more data clean up in Excel and then the data is ready to for TurboTax. I never really liked to TurboTax import from Quicken feature, it's alway too much or too little. It's much easier to organize the data in Excel.

To maximum your deductions, you have to track every single business related transactions. Quicken helps you do that a little bit at a time, through out the year. Instead of trying to go through a box of receipts and trying to remember the reasons afterward, when you're in a hurry to meet the deadline. Never a good idea to do thing last minute, especially bad when lot of money is involved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

use google spreadsheet for lightweight database

I saw this on Adam's blog and thought it was just too cool. I had to tried it out. Took me a few minutes to signup for a Google account and create a new spreadsheet and form. I send out the test forms to myself and got the email right away. Of course, the next obvious thing is to see if I copy the html over on the blog entries would the form still function. You can help me test it.

you can find the posted results here


task tracker

help you track the weekly tasks done and the number of hours used.




powered by Google Docs
Terms of Service
Additional Terms

lower your property tax

Now is the now to review the value of your property to see if you are paying too much property tax! There is a good chance that you are paying too much. Talk with your real estate agent, let them know you want recent comps, especially the foreclosure sales. This way you can gauge if your home value has gone below the 2008 property assessed value. Then check the website for your county property tax assessor. There should be a form to partition for temporary adjustment of the property valuation.

Here is the forms for Orange County, CA:
look for "Request For Informal Assessment Review"

The deadline for OC is March 30 so don't wait too long.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

what have I been reading.

I never actually spend that much time reading blogs before. Now that I started a blog, I spend much more time reading other people blogs. It's incredible. I don't think I'll ever buy another magazine again. There are just so much incredibly well written, insightful, clever, funny, and expertise blogs. Of course, I feel a bit of pressure to increase the quality of my entries (part of the reason for the delays in publishing new entries) .

Here are some articles and blogs that I quite enjoyed on some wide ranging topics.