How to Choose a Tax Preparer
If you would like to use a paid tax preparer, make sure you choose a qualified professional. Though someone else prepares your return, the content remains your responsibility, including everything that may result from an error, such as interest or penalty. That’s why it’s a must that you are careful in picking the person to take care of 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 you select a particular tax preparer, be sure to ask the following questions:
> What formal tax training have you acquired?
> Do you have any professional licenses or designations, such as registered accounting practitioner (RAP), certified public accountant (CPA), accredited tax preparer (ATP), accredited tax advisor (ATA) or enrolled agent (EA)?
> Do you engage in continuing professional education classes year after year?
> How long have you been preparing taxes for clients?
> Have you had a client with the same tax situation as mine?
> How much should I pay you and how do you set your fee?
> Will you be around the whole year, just in case I run into some problems?
> Are you authorized e-file returns, and are you going to represent me in an audit or collection matter when a situation arises?
> How do you stand by your work?
> Can you give me some client references? (Don’t forget to check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.)
> Will the refund be deposited into my account or yours? (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 processing is faster for e-filed returns than those that are mailed. Check with the treasury to know the processing time frames instead of relying on the preparer.
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.
Don’t ever sign a blank form, nor in pencil. Tax preparers should sign the return, fill in the relevant areas on the form(s) and give you a copy. Always demand for a copy, making sure you keep it for reference later on.