Doing Taxes The Right Way

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 you need to choose the right person to handle 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 choosing a certain tax preparer, make sure to ask the following questions:

> What type of formal tax training did you acquire?

> 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 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 available all year round to help me with any problems I may encounter?

> Do you have authority to e-filing returns, and can I count on you to represent me in an audit or collection issue?

> How do you guarantee your work?

> Can you provide client references? Check with the Better Business Bureau to know if complaints have been filed against the preparer.)

> Does the refund go to my account or yours? (The money must be sent to 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. Pick someone you can reach even after your return has been filed, and one who is known for being responsive to their clients’ needs. Note that e-filed returns are often processed much faster than those that are mailed. Check with the treasury to know the processing time frames instead of relying on the preparer.

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. Don’t sign the document unless you have reviewed it thoroughly. Check if all your personal details, such as your Social Security number, address, exemptions, etc.

Never sign a blank form or any form with a pencil. 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.