How to Choose the Right Tax Preparer

choosing-the-right-tax-preparer-albany-nyIt is that magical time of the year again and if you are looking for someone to prepare your taxes, there are many factors to consider including expertise and pricing. We are all unique and there is no one size fits all. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions! Here are some tips to help you in your search to choose the right tax preparer for you:

  1. Find out what their tax background and experience is. What is their training? What are their qualifications and credentials? How long have they been preparing tax returns? Also, some tax preparers are not a certified public accountants (CPA) and don’t have a formal credential but yet may be competent. Ask questions to find out what makes them qualified to prepare tax returns.
  2. Find out if the tax preparer has experience with the type of return that you must file. Tax returns are not all the same and range from 1040-EZ to various involved schedules. Tax preparers may focus on a certain type of return but may also have sufficient knowledge in many areas.  However, if your return is specialized, you will want to find a tax preparer who has a lot of experience with that type of return. . Ask about their experience with individual returns vs. corporate returns. In my experience, tax preparers who specialize in corporate tax returns, which tend to be more expensive, charge a higher minimum fee. This is something to keep in mind if you are only looking for personal tax return preparation.
  3. Ensure that the tax preparer is familiar with the requirements of the states and localities that you must file in. For example, if you live in one state but work in another, there may be filing requirements to consider. Also, you may have a business that has sales in different states, own property in another state or have relocated to a different state during the year.
  4. Know in advance what records, documents and other information that the tax preparer will require of you. This could save you time and money. A competent tax preparer will ask for many different documents and be able to explain what you will need to provide for special circumstances you may have. Personally, I like it when a tax preparer offers a thorough checklist to review, which would enable a thorough tax preparer to make sure nothing has been missed, such as long-term care insurance premium deductions, investment fees or student loan payments.
  5. Find out how the tax preparer determines their fees. The question to ask here is not how much they charge but how they calculate their fee. This could be based on the complexity of the return, type of return, whether additional schedules are needed or you have an unusual circumstance like a Roth IRA conversion.
  6. Make sure they can file returns electronically. In this day and age, this is a must.Refunds are faster and there are less errors.
  7. Know exactly who will be preparing your return at a firm. Will you need to sign the return or will the tax preparer do so? Beware of a preparer who refuses to sign a tax return.
  8. Find out when you will receive a copy of your tax return. It may not be immediately, but it should be within a reasonable amount of time.
  9. Will the tax preparer be available for questions after tax season? Some tax preparers are seasonal, which is not very helpful when you receive notices mid-year from the IRS for more information.
  10. Find out how the tax preparer handles auditsHopefully this will not be an issue in the future but it is better to be safe than sorry. Will the tax preparer answer questions from the IRS for you? How will the fee be calculated to do this or to fix any mistakes?

 

  2 comments for “How to Choose the Right Tax Preparer

  1. August 30, 2017 at 11:33 am

    I like that you mentioned that there are different filing requirements for different states. It makes sense that you would want to ensure your preprarer is aware of these requirements and ready to handle them. I am trying to find a tax preparer to help me handle my filing this year, and I work in a different state. I will be sure to ask about this as I search, thanks for sharing.

  2. August 30, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I like that you mentioned finding out how much electronic options they use. This is a huge benefit to speeding up returns and the process. You want someone who is up to date on the technology.

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