Unless you’re doing your taxes on your own, choosing the right tax preparer is key. There are many benefits to hiring a tax preparer and outsourcing your taxes. However, choosing someone who has the right credentials, expertise and understanding of your particular situation requires certain specific steps.
Not only will the right tax preparer help you file an accurate tax return, but he/she will also help you maximize your deductions and reduce your tax liability.
Here are 10 tips to remember if and when you are ready to pick a tax preparer:
Check your tax preparer’s qualifications and history
It’s important to verify that your tax preparer has the adequate qualifications. You can consult the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers as a reference. In addition, you may also inquire about the tax return preparer’s history with the Better Business Bureau, the appropriate State Boards of Accountancy (if you’re dealing with a CPA), or the State Bar Association (if you’re dealing with a tax attorney).
Ensure they have a PTIN number
Note that all paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which you can request. Additionally, you may inquire if they also attend continuing classes or belong to a professional organization.
Inquire about their fees
It’s wise to inquire about a tax preparer’s fees even before submitting any documentation. Avoid any tax preparer who bases their fees on a refund amount or percentage. You may also want to confirm these fees in writing with your chosen tax preparer.
Check on e-filing services
Inquire of any tax preparer you may be considering if they offer e-filing services. If so, make sure to ask them about the e-filing process, deadlines and other requirements, as well as the best filing options.
Confirm their availability
You may also want to ensure that your tax preparer will be available for your needs, even after your file your tax return. Confirm the due dates and deadlines of your tax return preparation service.
Ask if they provide support in case of audits
IRS tax audits are scary, but they are a possibility. Ask your potential preparer if they will/can support you in case of a tax audit. You may also want to obtain information about any additional fees in this instance.
Watch out for red flags
There are some common red flags you should be aware of as you pick the right tax preparer for you. Avoid any tax preparer that tells you you should sign a blank tax return. Similarly, do not engage with a tax preparer who won’t sign your tax return or will not include their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Last but not least, any sign of an abusive tax preparer should have you running in the opposite direction.
Provide records and receipts
Any good tax preparer should ask you for records and receipts, and ask you pertinent questions about your income, expenses, deductions, and other items. Watch out for any preparer who only asks you for your last pay stub instead of your W-2 in order to e-file your return, as it is against IRS rules.
Be aware of your complaint options
Know that you are able and encouraged to report any abusive or incompetent tax preparers. You may use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. In case said tax preparer filed or modified your return without your consent, you may also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Listen to your gut!
Last but not least, listen to your gut. While you may not necessarily be familiar with tax matters, trust your instinct when it comes to working with certain individuals. Do your due diligence and ask as many questions as you need to feel more comfortable.
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