||Asking the right questions can make a big difference when hiring a tax preparer.
It helps ensure that you are getting a professional who is qualified and knowledgeable about the tax code, will do a good job on your tax return, help with tax planning, and be there for you if you have questions later.
The National Society of Accountants (NSA) suggests you ask these questions:
- Are you registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with a Personal Tax Identification Number (PTIN)? (Every paid tax preparer is required to have a PTIN so make sure they do.)
- Do you offer a free initial consultation? (Most tax preparers do.)
- How do you keep up with the latest tax law? (Staying current with the tax law is critical and preparers should be able to describe the continuing education courses they take.)
- Are you a member of any professional tax or accounting organizations? (Membership in at least one professional organization shows a commitment to being a tax preparer and offers them resources to help do their jobs well.)
- What are your professional credentials? (Credentials typically demonstrate a high level of experience and ethics.)
- How do you determine your fee to prepare my return(s)? Is it a fixed fee or an hourly rate? (Either way is fine as long as you are given complete fee or hourly rate information.)
- When do you require payment? (Some will charge a portion of the fee up front, others will ask for progress payments during the preparation period, and some will bill you after the tax return is completed.)
- Can I contact you after tax season if needed regarding my return? (The answer should be “Yes” and the person who completes the return should be the one available.)
- Who will prepare my return? Will it be you or someone else in your office? (Make sure you find out and make sure the person has experience and credentials.)
- Can you e-file my return? (Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns must e-file their clients’ returns.)
It’s also a good idea to check the preparer’s history. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if a preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to www.irs.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status.” The IRS directory of qualified tax preparers atwww.irs.gov/chooseataxpro is also a useful resource.
The IRS advises avoiding preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. You should not have your refund deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
Never sign a blank tax return and always make sure your preparer signs your completed return and includes his or her PTIN. Other red flags are preparers who refuse to sign the return they prepare for you, refuse to include their PTIN on the return, or someone who asks you to sign a blank return.
If you are not satisfied with the answers you receive, keep looking. For more information and to use an online search directory to identify a qualified tax preparer in your area, visit www.chooseataxpro.org, where you can find a guide to credentials, fee information, a consumer blog, and more. Click on “Find a Tax Professional” to access the directory or call 800-966-6679.
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NSA and its affiliates represent members who provide accounting, auditing, tax preparation, financial and estate planning, and management services to approximately 19 million individuals and business clients. Most members are sole practitioners or partners in small- to medium-size accounting firms. NSA protects the public by requiring its members to adhere to a strict code of ethics. For more information, visitwww.nsacct.org.#PersonalIncomeTax #ChoosingaTaxPreparer #IndividualIncomeTax #Consumer #NewsandInformation #Tax