April 15th is Tax Day in the United States - the deadline by which Americans must pay their due to the government. But for many, April 15th might just as well be called taxing day - the chore of filling out forms, going through receipts and maybe writing out a big check to the U.S. Treasury isn't their idea of fun, and some would rather pay a professional to do the work for them. That's where accountants like Linda de Marlor, president of Taxmasters company come in - she was able to save her client, Mike, a self-employed realtor, hundreds of dollars on a new computer, priced at $1,235. "Do you know that $1,235 saves him about 41%," she queries. "If we didn't have that on his tax return, his taxes would have been even higher."
Mike, who prefers not to reveal his last name, is one of many free-lance workers who let Taxmasters, Incorporated do their taxes for them. Linda deMarlor says filling out tax returns for the self-employed individual or business owner is a little more complicated than what the typical hourly wage earner submits.
"Those people really need special help because they have to pay their own social security taxes," she says. "It's like a small business return." When asked how most people feel about paying their taxes, Linda deMarlor says: "They may complain about the complexity of the tax laws, but not about how much they pay. Because Americans' taxes are really quite low compared to most countries."
Despite the complexity of the tax laws, many Americans prepare their own taxes, often using one of the software programs that compute what they owe and even allow them to file their return electronically, on the Internet. But Maryland realtor and Taxmaster client Mike's reaction to the software is emphatic: "'Been there, done that.' Now I'm here with Linda."
The Maryland realtor says the computer programs are not equipped to deal with every human situation. "They don't have that human element, somebody who can actually sit there and ask you questions about your specific business," he says. "Coming to the same person year after year, that person tends to get to know you and they see when you forget to tell them something . . . and they can really give that personal touch on the tax return."
As for cheating on his tax return, Mike says the idea has never crossed his mind. "I've heard the horror stories," he says. "I do not want to be an example. Linda wouldn't let me be an example either."
Linda deMarlor says most of the tax cheating that she is aware of is done by people who fail to file their tax returns at all. She says the I-R-S usually catches up with them after 4 or 5 years. "They get a letter in the mail. Then they get to come and have me help them," she says.
The accountant says people who work in cash-based industries may try to get away with not reporting their full earnings. She says they may allude the I-R-S for a time, but, she urges caution. "Of course, once they do find out you've not been filing and not declaring your income, you can go to jail."
Linda deMarlor cites the notorious gangster, Al Capone who eluded authorities for years until it was discovered that he never filed a tax return. "They couldn't get him for any murders or corruption," she says, "but they sure as heck put him in jail for not paying his taxes!"
Thousands of people come to the United Sates every year to establish new businesses. Taxmaster president Linda deMarlor says while there are many books available to help those individuals through what might be considered a 'tax law maze' the frequent changes in the tax code often warrant consulting a professional. "Last year in our office we received 10,000 pages of updates on the existing new tax laws," she notes. "These weren't new laws, these were just updates on what has already been passed." She says it took all 17 members of her staff to read the 10,000 pages and questions how anyone who is not an accountant could possibly know which pages applied to them?
On April 16th many Americans will breathe a sigh of relief that they have signed, sealed and mailed their tax returns on time to the Internal Revenue Service…. and they won't have to go through it again for another year.
Accountant Linda deMarlor says her clients often tell her that paying taxes is akin to going to the dentist.
"I had a lady in my office yesterday who was leaving my office for the dentist - she said she wanted to do the two things on the same day so she could get everything over with for a year!" She says it is like going to the dentist in that nobody really has a choice. "Because it's something you have to do. They would not, not go to the dentist and they would not, not pay their taxes." The old expression still holds true: "the only thing certain in life is death and taxes."