15 Questions to ask a Tax Preparer

15 Questions to ask a Tax Preparer

tax preparer

Lately I have been helping a large number of customers that had their  previous year returns prepared  by a less than honest tax professional.  The experience led me to brainstorm ideas on how could I help people select better tax preparers. Here are at least 15  key points that every taxpayer should ask before hiring a tax preparer:

  1. Formal Education: A preparer with a degree in accounting, tax law, or finance is a good starting point.
  2. Professional Certifications: Look for individuals with certifications like Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Enrolled Agent (EA), or Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA). These certifications require extensive education and testing, demonstrating expertise in tax preparation.
  3. IRS Directory: Utilize the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications to find qualified professionals in your area.
  4. Years of Experience: Look for someone with experience handling tax returns similar to yours in complexity.
  5. Specialization: Consider their areas of specialization. Some preparers focus on specific industries, like small businesses or individuals with high net worth.
  6. Continuing Education: Ensure the preparer stays current with tax laws and regulations by attending continuing education courses.
  7. Reputation: Seek recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues.
  8. Professional Affiliations: Consider their membership in professional organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
  9. Security and Confidentiality: Ensure they have strong data security measures to protect your financial information.
  10. Clear Communication: Choose someone who clearly explains complex tax matters in terms you understand.
  11. Responsiveness: They should be readily available to answer your questions and address concerns throughout the year.
  12. Timeliness: They should meet deadlines and file your taxes on time.
  13. Transparent Fee Structure: Understand the fee structure upfront and avoid hidden charges.
  14. Services Offered: Ensure they offer the services you need, like tax planning, audit representation, and electronic filing.
  15. Online presence: review the business’ internet site and the posts on social media. A red flag would be to find little or no information online.  If the business is in an office space, ask how long they have been there. Some preparers lease a place for tax season and then disappear without a trace.

Take your time, research your options, and ask plenty of questions to find someone you trust to handle your taxes accurately and efficiently. Remember, a tax preparer is going to know almost everything about you and your family, wouldn’t it make sense to make sure he/she is a trustworthy individual. Finally, read your tax return twice and make sure you understand what is being filed for you.

 

For more tips on hiring the right tax preparer, watch the following video: Choose a tax preparer wisely.

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