New York ranks third in the country for the number of accountants per 1,000 jobs (11.04), 37th for the affordability of tax help, fifth for the lowest number of returns filed per accountant (167), and first for the percentage of filers who pay for tax help (67.92 percent), according to a new report from Wallet Hub, a personal finance social network.
New York was fourth among all states for its average tax refund — $1,812.50. Montana had the lowest average refund at $948.73.
Wallet Hub said that the two main reasons why more than 2.6 million people made math errors on their 2012 tax returns are “haste and disorganization.” Figures for 2013 are not yet available. Nearly 60 percent of taxpayers look to a professional tax preparer to help with their returns, rather than spend hours and hours trying to decipher and fill out their 1040s, Wallet Hub’s report said.
The report lists recommendations from professional tax preparers. Among them:
— Seek out free tax help, including nonprofit clinics, online educational materials, credit counseling companies, and accountants and tax attorneys who offer free consultations. The Internal Revenue Service has Volunteer Income Tax Assistance locations in all states to help taxpayers who make less than $50,000 a year, speak limited English, are elderly or who have a disability.
— Check preparers’ credentials and review their work. New York recently implemented regulations intended to protect consumers who use tax preparers.
— For low-income taxpayers, don’t count on getting an early refund check to pay for basic living expenses, particularly with last fall’s government shutdown. “It’s hard to predict how much of a delay there will be in refund payments, but for someone living paycheck-to-paycheck, even a few weeks’ delay could cause significant disruptions,” James M. Puckett, assistant professor at Pennsylvania State Law School, said in the report.
— Don’t panic if you’re audited. Experts say the best way to approach tax season is to have an expectation you will be audited. That will encourage you to play by the book and gather the proper documentation for the information you report.
New York ranks last of all states and the District of Columbia for average and state and local taxes: