Beware, the taxman cometh. Are you prepared?

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By Malcolm Crawford

Now that we're into a new year, we have begun a new season?"tax season.
 
If you've looked around Austin lately, you will have noticed that this time of year it seems that almost every previously empty storefront is now bustling with those who come into our community for a few months to help those who are privileged to receive a tax return. Maybe you have seen people walking down the street dressed in all kinds of costumes, dancing and holding signs promising to get you the most money in the fastest time. This is the time when we turn over all of our most private information to people who we, in most cases, do not know, nor will ever see again after tax season.

I wonder if they'll tell you that the City of Chicago has a program to help the city's low-income residents with their tax filing for free! Yes, free. Well, you will have to take the time to call 311 for information on the designated location.

I began to wonder, where can Austin business owners and residents go when they need more than a wham-bam-thank you sir or ma'am type of service?"i.e. true accounting services? Well, Austin does have a full service group of tax professionals at WED Tax & Accounting Services, located at 5629 W. Madison. Its proprietor is Mr. Willie Dover, whom I would categorize as a young, black urban professional. Dover has been in business for more than 18 years and at his current location for four years.

Dover is a lifelong, born-and-raised Westsider. He stated that he opened WED tax service because he wanted to offer the people in our community a place where they could get year-round access to an accounting professional who doesn't disappear after tax season.

"I wanted to be able to educate my people on not just receiving a return, but offer help with incorporation, business planning, not-for-profit startup or filings, or just whatever the client needs," Dover said.

Why Austin?

Dover said it was an act of fate after realizing that he had outgrown his home-based tax services. He says he was out driving one day when he noticed a commercial location on Madison Street. It was in close proximity to his home and, compared to other places, it was affordable. Madison Street had also begun a major beautification.

All things considered, it just felt right. Then he laughed and said proudly, "No matter who comes and who goes, I am here for the long haul."

Tips

Now here is a word to the wise. April 15 is still two months away, but it's not too soon to start preparing your tax returns. You can save time by organizing all of your tax information ahead of time.

Whether you choose to file your taxes yourself, or use a tax professional, make sure you have your correct Social Security number as well as those of your spouse and dependents.

Attach copies of your W-2s. Remember to ask your church secretary for a record of your tithes.

Figure your child tax credit, as well as the correct amount of child care expenses and education costs.

Also calculate investment income, including bank interest and dividends, as well as stocks.

Be sure to sign and date your return. Last year more than 300,000 people nationwide forgot to do so, thereby delaying their returns. Filing electronically can save you money and get your refund sooner, but should you choose to mail your return, use the correct amount of postage and the pre-addressed envelope to the IRS. Check and double check your return. Don't wait until the last minute to file your returns. Chances are, you will be hurried and stressed, making you more likely to make mistakes.

Mistakes in one part of your return can affect your entire form and those errors can cost you money.

And always remember that it's all about dollars and cents. If it don't make dollars, it don't make sense.

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