How do you bill for your services?

Our professional fees for each engagement are determined by the type of service, time necessary for completion of the service, level of expertise required, complexity of work, and the prevailing cost in the community; but always with the goal of providing our clients with reasonable fees commensurate with the value of the services that they receive. Different services command different rates.

At the initial meeting, we will discuss the nature of the services required and the fee arrangement for the engagement. In addition, we encourage our clients to discuss our fees whenever they have a question.

Most of the fees charged to a client's account are either a set amount for a specific task or an hourly rate fee, based on the time required for completion of services. We will discuss with each client the billing method that will be used on his or her specific account.

When we begin an engagement, we work to clearly define the job. This analysis is followed by an engagement letter detailing the services to be preformed and the cost or the estimated range of costs for those services. Engagement letters will delineate all services that are included in the estimate. Our objective is to be as clear as possible in communicating our fee estimate from the outset. If a situation arises that causes a need for additional services over the contracted amount, we will immediately notify our clients of the necessary changes for their approval. We strive to provide all of our clients with reasonable rates in exchange for the highest professional standards and services.

When will payments be due for services rendered?

We make every effort to provide our clients with professional, timely service, and in turn, we appreciate prompt payment.

We invoice each month for services during that specified time period. For some engagements, such as tax preparation, we request payment when the return is delivered. For extensive projects that take more than 30 days to complete or require substantial staff time, we may submit interim bills, semi-monthly, or more frequently on extremely large projects. These special billing issues will be discussed in the initial meetings as we determine the scope of our client's needs.

On some new accounts or when providing particular types of services, we may require a retainer. A retainer would be commensurate with the nature of the task and the amount of staff time involved. If a retainer is requested, we will discuss our determination of the retainer with the client.

Who Works On My File?

Each of our clients is given personal, timely service by our professional and experienced staff members. Bruns Gelles & Company, PC employees strive to provide every client the best service for the least possible cost. Our experienced staff offers all of our clients the personal attention required when handling their unique accounting, tax preparation, or financial planning needs.

All work performed in our office is under professional supervision. Specific tasks will be assigned to individual staff members based on the nature of the services required. This work assignment determination provides our clients with the most timely and least expensive services.

What hours are you available?

Our normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00AM to 5:00 PM. We will glady accommodate those who need evening or weekend consultations.

What Documents Do I Need To Provide?

For Individual accounts, we provide our clients with a questionnaire and/or worksheets to guide them in gathering the necessary information to complete the services requested, in a timely and accurate manner. These forms lessen the chances of omissions occurring on personal tax returns or in other documents. It is the client's responsibility to furnish all necessary information to complete their personal tax returns or other services requested. For Business accounts, we prefer all information to be generated through computer accounting programs; but we can make special arrangements to take materials in other forms. Clients can contact us for recommendations about specific business software packages.

How Long Should I Retain My Records?

Retaining and storing of income tax records is an important final step of the income tax process. This overview provides guidelines for storing information, retention requirements, and electronic storage options.

When determining how long to maintain income tax records, consideration must be given to the time frame during which the IRS can audit returns, assess a tax deficiency, or when taxpayers can amend a return. For most taxpayers, this period is three years from the original due date of the return or the date the return was filed, if later.

For example, if a 2007 Form 1040 is filed on or before April 15, 2008, the IRS has until April 15, 2011 to audit the return and assess a deficiency. However, if a return includes substantial understatement of income, which is defined as omitting income exceeding 25% on the amount reported on the return, the statue of limitations period is extended to six years. There is no statute of limitations when no return is filed or a fraudulent return is filed.

Many tax preparers recommend adding a year to the IRS statute of limitations period when retaining documents. Using this approach, income tax records would be stored for four years. The IRS informally recommends retaining them for a period of seven years. State tax rules must also be considered; but holding records long enough for IRS purposes will normally suffice for state tax purposes, assuming that the federal and state returns were filed at the same time.

Certain tax records should be retained for much longer than described above and some should be maintained indefinitely. Records substantiating the cost basis of property that eventually could be sold, such as, investment property and business fixed assets should be retained based on the record retention period for the year in which the property is sold. Tax returns, IRS and state audit reports, and business ledgers and financial statements should be retained indefinitely. There are non-tax reasons for retaining these records beyond tax purposes. This might include documents such as insurance policies, leases, real estate closing statements, employment records, and other legal documents. Bruns Gelles & Company, PC will gladly provide additional guidance.

The IRS also permits taxpayers to store certain documents electronically. Although the rules apply primarily to businesses and sole proprietors, they presumably cover individuals as well. The rules permit taxpayers to convert paper documents to electronic images and maintain only the electronic files. The paper documents can then be destroyed.

Bruns Gelles & Company, PC (724-327-1040) is available to answer questions regarding specific situations or any general retention rule questions.