Story by Ben Elmadar

The ceremonial lighting of ordinarily vacant storefronts inaugurates the tax season. Lady Liberty plays his boom box on the street corner. Seems everyone is in the fiscal spirit.

local guys

Brian Dettmering is a year-round accountant with 25 years experience. He has spent the past 12 years helping people in Riverwest do their taxes. He also serves as accountant and confidante for many small businesses in the area.

Bill Wood is a rare former full-time employee of H & R Block. He has spent 26 years as a tax practitioner.

big guys

H&R Block has a recognizable name and is able to get taxpayers all the deductions they’re entitled as well as an instant advance. However, their local offices are only open from January thru April, which can make it difficult to find your tax preparer should questions arise.

Dettmering says, “H&R Block makes people think they’re not getting enough, but most people tend to get the deductions they should. An instant refund is really a high priced loan.”

He also points out if choosing the direct deposit option, e-filing only takes three to five business days, eliminating the need for an instant refund.

“If someone is working for a wage and paying rent they probably can do their own return,” says Wood.

Taxpayers whose 2006 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was $52,000 or less can e-file their federal returns free of charge using the Free File program developed by the Internal Revenue Service and a number of software companies that charge for their services.

Depending on a taxpayer’s actual income and age, some sites also offer state returns.

refund on Your phone?

This year, practically all taxpayers who have owned a telephone since 2003 are eligible to receive the Telephone Excise Tax Refund.

Woods explains this is because an excise tax placed on telephones as luxury items, intended to raise revenue during WWII, wasn’t repealed until recently.

Claiming one exemption will amount to a $30 standard refund. Ten dollars is added for each exemption and is capped at $60.

The Self-employed

The self-employed have an opportunity for more deductions but preparation is more difficult. Assistance is advised.

If people are careful and pay attention they can reduce their taxable income. There are many legal ways for experts to reduce taxes. They know the government rules about what can be deducted.

The biggest misconception people have about tax preparation, according to Wood, is what “somebody said.” Everyone’s taxes are different. The more complicated a person’s source of income the more complicated their taxes are to file.

(Ed. Note: Disclosure: Brian Dettmering is the accountant for Currents Inc.)

Who You gonna Call?

Local Riverwest tax preparation specialists:

brian Dettmering: 414-364-0152

bill Wood: 414- 372-9663

Tips from the IRS on using a paid tax preparer

* A Paid Preparer is required by law to sign the return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. The preparer should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return. Although the Preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of the return.

* Review the completed return to ensure all tax information, your name, address and Social Security number(s) are correct. Make sure that none of these spaces is left blank.

* Review and ensure you understand the entries and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign.

* Never sign a blank return, and never sign in pencil.

* If you have provided specific authorization in a power of attorney filed with the IRS, you may have copies of notices or refund checks mailed to your preparer or representative; but only you can sign and cash your refund check. For further information on Powers of Attorney, refer to Topic 311.

* A Third Party Authorization Check Box on Form 1040 allows you to designate your Paid Preparer to speak to the IRS concerning how your return was prepared, payment and refund issues and mathematical errors.

Riverwest Currents online edition – April, 2007