Searching for a Good Tax Preparer
If you decide to hire a paid tax preparer, you need to find a qualified professional. While someone else prepares your return, the content is still your responsibility, including any additional payments, interest or penalty that could result from a mistake. 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. Ask the following questions before choosing a particular tax preparer:
> What formal tax training do you have?
> 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 enroll in continuing professional education courses every year?
> How many years have you been in this type of work?
> 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 to e-file returns, and will you represent me in an audit or collection matter when it comes up?
> How do you guarantee your work?
> Can you give me a few client references? Check with the Better Business Bureau to know if complaints have been filed against the preparer.)
> Will the refund be deposited into my account or yours? (The money must be sent to your account.)
Steer clear of those who “guarantee” results, claim to get you bigger refunds than other tax preparers, and collect a percentage of your refund as their fee. Pick someone you can reach even after your return has been filed, and one who is known for being responsive to their clients’ needs. Keep in mind that e-filed returns are typically processed more quickly than returns which are mailed. Don’t rely on the preparer to know the time frames for processing returns; instead, check with the Treasury.
It is always worth repeating that taxpayers are responsible for whatever is in their returns, even if these were prepared by someone else. Never sign the document until you have reviewed it. Check if all personal information found therein is correct, from your Social Security number to your number of exemptions to your address and all the rest.
Don’t sign a form that is blank, and never use pencil when signing. Tax preparers need to sign the return, fill in the parts on the document(s) and give you a copy of your own. Demand to get a copy, and make sure you keep it for future reference.