How to Choose a Tax Preparer
If you would like to use a paid tax preparer, make sure you choose a qualified professional. While someone else prepares your return, the content is still your responsibility, including any additional payments, interest or penalty that could result from a mistake. That’s why you have to be careful in choosing the person who will handle your tax documents.
Some states do not require tax preparers to carry a license, but it’s good to hire one who does and is certified. Before choosing a certain tax preparer, make sure to ask the following questions:
> What formal tax training do you have?
> Do you hold any professional designations or licenses, like certified public accountant (CPA), registered accounting practitioner (RAP), enrolled agent (EA), accredited tax preparer (ATP) or accredited tax advisor (ATA)?
> Do you enroll in continuing professional education courses every year?
> How long have you been in this line of work?
> Have you worked with someone who had a similar tax situation as mine?
> How much will you charge me and how do you determine your rates?
> Will you be available all year round to help me with any problems I may encounter?
> Are you authorized to e-file returns, and will you represent me in an audit or collection matter when it comes up?
> How do you guarantee your work?
> Can you provide client references? (Don’t forget to check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.)
> Whose account does the refund go to – yours or mine? (The money must be sent to your account.)
Forget those who get paid by taking a percentage of your refund, claim to give you bigger refunds than anyone else, and “guarantee” results. Select someone who will be around for you even after the return is filed, and one who will continue to be responsive to your needs. Note that e-filed returns are often processed much faster than those that are mailed. Don’t rely on the preparer to know the time frames for processing returns; instead, check with the Treasury.
As mentioned – and it is always worth repeating – taxpayers are responsible for what is in their returns, even if you have a preparer working for you. Be sure to review the document thoroughly before signing it. See if all your personal information is accurate, like your Social Security number, address, types and sources of income, and so on.
Never sign a blank form or any form with a pencil. Tax preparers need to sign the return, fill in the parts on the document(s) and give you a copy of your own. Always demand for a copy, making sure you keep it for reference later on.