A staff meeting to begin another tax season is a good idea whether your staff is just your spouse or an admin or it includes partners, preparers, reviewers and bookkeepers. More than 100 changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) take affect for 2018 tax returns. Communicating them to all workers who deal with returns is crucial. The year I discovered that my most valuable person didn’t know what I thought was a simple "everyone-knows- that" change, and we had errors because of my assumptions, was the year I discovered the necessity of starting out right with staff.

A "Baker's Dozen" Talking Points

  1. Review new laws taking effect in 2018. See the IRS new law information for individuals and businesses here. The new Publication 535 has worksheets for calculating the qualified business income (QBI). Be sure that everyone has a copy of the Publication (in draft form at this time).
  2. Review the new "postcard" 2018 Form 1040 and its attached schedules 1 through 6, along with the instructions for the dramatically revised form and schedules.
  3. Discuss how the review of the final return will change because of the new "postcard" form for 2018 Form 1040.
  4. Review the "What's New for 2018" section of instructions for 2018 Forms 1120, 1120S, and 1065, especially noting where the QBI information is reported on the 2018 Form K-1.
  5. Review the "What's New for 2018" section of the tax software manual and discuss problem input forms from the prior year, especially noting how the 2018 QBI information is inputted into the software.
  6. Review required elections and locate the software input sheet for each. Important elections include, but are not limited to: (1) grouping election for real estate professionals and business activities, (2) $2,500 de minimis election for business and rental property expenditures, (3) small taxpayer, small building 2% election, (4) opt-out election for streamlined audit of partnerships and LLCs, (5) and more.
  7. Review ACA provisions including (1) premium tax credit and Forms 8962 and 1095-A, (2) exemptions from penalty and Form 8965 and (3) Forms 1095-B and 1095-C.
  8. Review EIC, child tax credit and American Opportunity credit due diligence Form 8867 and remind staff that due diligence requirements have expanded to head of household filing status for 2018 returns.
  9. Because so many clients will need a revised 2019 Form W-4, review available office software in order to streamline the preparation of 2019 W-4s.
  10. Establish and update office rules for seeing documentation on contributions, mortgage interest, business mileage and meal records.
  11. Search for AMT credit carryovers. Since most clients will not be subject to AMT this year, their carryover credits will be valuable. Form 8801 should show any accumulated AMT credits, but prior year returns need to be analyzed carefully to avoid loss of these valuable credits.
  12. Review 2018-2019 engagement letter and update and review record retention policy for the office and for the client.
  13. Review your notes of important items from the Western CPE tax update class you attended and invite staff to share notes on the classes they took.