Professional Tax Preparer: What is Best for You?

Having a professional tax preparer can save you time, money and provide peace of mind that your taxes are prepared properly…

Even so, there are a few disclosures that you must be aware of when working with a professional tax preparer.  Always remember that it is you who are liable and not your preparer the case of any problems so it is always worth a few extra moments of due diligence even when you have a professional preparing your taxes for you.

There are several online tax preparation software options and services as well as licensed and unlicensed professionals available to help you. The following tips will help you ensure you find the best professional tax preparer for your needs.

First and foremost it is important to determine what your tax preparer needs are.  Speed, tax strategy, tax management, and accuracy should all be considered when reviewing tax preparation services. If you want all of these for your business then you most likely can benefit by using a tax preparer.

Accuracy and professionalism are important, ask your prospective tax preparer if they are a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), enrolled agent, or possess advanced tax training. These tax professionals train in helping clients to lower taxes, legally, as much as simply organize and prepare documents and you navigate the complicated tax codes.

A Certified Public Accountant is a registered state licensed accountant. CPAs are highly trained in business corporate accounting, audits, and consulting for personal finances as well as business, though many specialize. An Enrolled Agent is a tax professional who underwent and passed tax and accounting courses or trainings offered by the IRS.

All paid tax return preparers like CPAs and enrolled agents are required to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) before preparing any federal tax returns and verification help you avoid the unqualified. Under the new regulations even preparers who already have a PTIN must apply for a new one, so anyone active in the industry should be able to provide verification.

Check Recommendations and Referral Services. There is simply no better way to find a qualified preparer than by recommendation or referral by a successful business that recommends the service.  Professionals that stake their reputations on exceeding client expectations will have nothing to hide and leave a trail of satisfied relationships in their wake.

There are national tax franchise offices, many with impeccable and professional teams in place, but results can vary and not all franchises may meet up with the standards of the national brand. Schedule your appointment with your chosen tax preparer in advance and make sure you bring all you tax documents, yours and your dependents’ social security cards, photo IDs, a copy of the previous year’s tax return and others documents that will assist in the preparation.

Remember, choose your tax preparer wisely. Keep in mind that you, the taxpayer, are legally liable and responsible for your tax return, even if it’s prepared for you.  An ounce of due diligence saves a pound of problems.

It is every important to know the following when you want to hire a tax preparer.

Qualifications.  Ask and check for the person’s qualification. Is the tax preparer a member or affiliated with any professional organization with high code of ethics requirements?  Does their organization have a built reputation with the Better Business Bureau?

Background Check. Check your tax preparer’s history and background. You don’t want to hire someone with a questionable history or pending criminal liabilities.  Your tax preparer will have access to the intimate financial details of your life, trust is vital for success.

Availability. Your tax preparer should always be available and accessible after filing the tax return.  He or she should be available when questions arise or if adjustments are required.  Does your tax preparation service answer the phone promptly in and out of tax season?

When signing a tax form makes sure the review the forms. Do not sign a blank tax return form. Do not hire a preparer that will ask you to sign a blank tax form, this should be an immediate red flag.

Before signing a filled return form, also make sure that you have reviewed, understood, and are in agreement with what you are signing. Otherwise, ask questions and let the tax preparer explain to you what you do not understand.  Make informed and responsible decisions and your preparer should be someone who empowers you with information.

As required by law, make sure that your professional tax preparer signs the return form and include their PTIN.  Unfortunately many extensions and late filings nationally are due to small details like this not being completed by a less than meticulous preparer.

Tax Policy Awareness. Is your tax preparer on top of changing tax policies and does he have the experience use the tax code in your favor? Tax policies of the Internal Revenue Service are incredibly complicated, yet there is little sympathy provided if you were unaware of a nuance that could save you thousands of dollars, even worse IRS penalties and fines when a tax return is incorrect or late can cost you thousands.

Trust yourself and your intuition. Remember when you doubt, doubt again. A professional tax prepare is always available, accessible and works to make your financial life easier.  If your tax professional is adding headaches or costing you time, deserve better.

Keep records. You should have copies on records of your financial documents even those prepared for you. Always ask for a copy of your completed and signed tax form if it is not provided to you.

It pays to be diligent. Do your homework and ask around. Educate yourself, ask your local tax offices or research on the internet. Remember it is still you as the taxpayer, by law, that is ultimately responsible so be give yourself the peace of mind that working with a recommended professional tax preparer can provide.

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