It’s that time of the year again! Yes. It’s tax time. Looking to hire a tax professional to prepare and file your tax return? Keep in mind taxpayers are always responsible for all the information on their income tax return regardless of who prepares and files it. Here are 10 tips for choosing a tax professional.
1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications
You can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers to check on credentials and see qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return professional with specific qualifications. The directory provides a searchable and sortable listing of tax professionals.
You can also check with friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. They may have a trusted professional that would be happy to help.
2. Check the Preparer’s History
You can check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers.
CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy.
Attorneys, check with the State Bar Association.
3. Ask about Service Fees
Avoid any professional who bases fees on a percentage of the refund or who boasts bigger refunds than their competition.
When asking about services and fees, don’t provide them any tax documents. They should not ask for Social Security numbers or other identifying information to provide a basic fee structure. A tax professional can quote you a price based on basic information you can provide about your situation via the phone, in person or email.
4. Ask to E-File
Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. E-file is the quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund from a federal and state tax return. Also, make sure the preparer uses direct deposit for any refund due or amount owed.
5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available
Check to see if the tax professional is available to file your tax return on time. Avoid fly-by-night preparers, so your return will not be filed late.
Many taxpayers want to contact their preparer after the due date. It’s important to know your tax professional will be there for questions throughout the year, not just tax time.
6. Provide Records and Receipts
Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.
If they don’t ask questions, something is wrong.
7. Never Sign a Blank Return
Don’t use a tax preparer who asks a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form. Never sign a blank tax form!
A tax preprarer is required to give you a copy of your return upon completion and before filing. Review it for accuracy and ask any questions you may have. Don’t forget to keep a copy for your own records!
8. Review Before Signing
Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of a return before signing it.
Taxpayers should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them via direct deposit or check. Review any bank information including the routing and bank account number on the completed return.
9. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes a PTIN
All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN. It will show on your completed tax return.
10. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS
While most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients, some are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer.
If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.
These accusations are taken seriously to prevent fraud in the future. A tax professional can lose their credentials if caught filing fraudulent returns.