5 Tips for Choosing a Great Tax Preparer
Filing your tax return is not something that goes on your "fun" list usually, but whether you like it or not, the IRS wants YOU! If you are just starting out with your first job, or you have been working for decades, filing the return is a necessary pain that comes around every year. If you don't prepare your own, perhaps you have a friend or relative or paid preparer take care of filing your tax return for you. If the latter is the case, here are some helpful tips to make sure that you have a tax preparer that is not going to cause you more heartache and pain down the road.
Does he/she asks all the important questions?
I have a friend that told me the reason she changed tax preparers is because she ended up owing money unexpectedly to the IRS for an oversight on her tax return. When she asked her tax preparer about why the question of this particular deduction wasn't asked, the reply was "you didn't tell me". My friend figured it was the tax preparer's responsibility to leave no stone unturned, and I have to agree. If your tax preparer has no questions for you, and simply serves as a data entry person for what you tell them, find another.
A good tax preparer asks questions and makes you think about things you never thought of.
Is he/she a good listener?
Besides asking the pertinent questions, a good tax preparer listens to your concerns and makes note of the things that are important to you.
Is he/she a strategic planner?
Your preparer should be one that not only completes this year's return, but explains it in detail and helps you plan for next year's liability.
Is he/she credentialed?
There are all kinds of credentials a good preparer can/should have nowadays. From the enrolled agent designation with the IRS, to being a CPA or even a RTRP (registered tax return preparer), there are a variety of ways that this person can and should increase their knowledge to show that they are indeed competent to handle your business.
Does he/she charge a flat fee, or is the fee based on how much of a refund you receive?
This relates to the last question, which is ethical and honest behavior. If a tax preparer's fee is based on a refund and how large it is, there is something fishy going on. Of course, a CPA or other professional may charge by the amount of time it takes to complete the return because of the tax return's complexity, but never trust someone who charges based on a percentage of the refund. In fact, this is against the law.
I hope you have a headache-free tax season, and I hope these tips help you as you look for that special someone you trust with your civic duty responsibilities!