How to Choose a Tax Preparer

If you want to hire a paid tax preparer, it is important that you pick 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.

In some states, tax preparers do not need to carry a license, but it pays to hire someone 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 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 many years have you been in this type of work?

> Have you worked with a client who had a tax situation similar to mine?

> How much do I have to pay you and how do you set your fees?

> Will you be able to help me any time of year if I run into 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 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? (You should receive the refund in your account.)

Other Considerations

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. Rather than depending on the preparer, check with the Treasury to know processing time frames.

Important Notes

It can never be stressed enough that you, as the taxpayer, will be responsible for everything that is on your return, whether or not you prepared it yourself. Be sure to review the document thoroughly before signing it. Check if all your personal details, such as your Social Security number, address, exemptions, etc.

Don’t sign a form that is blank, and never use pencil when signing. Tax preparers should sign the return, fill in the relevant areas on the form(s) and give you a copy. Demand to get a copy, and make sure you keep it for future reference.

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