Choosing a Reputable Tax Preparer
Tax season is officially here. The IRS began accepting tax returns on January 29 and employers and other payors were required to provide income information by January 31. If you do not have a tax return preparer, and do not want to prepare your own return, now is the time to select a tax preparer.
There are several different types of return preparers: certified public accountants, accountants, enrolled agents, tax preparation services and attorneys. Choosing a preparer depends on your needs and how much you want to spend. The most important thing is to you choose a preparer who has the education, knowledge and experience to prepare your return. Always keep in mind, that ultimately you are responsible for the content and accuracy of your return no matter who prepares it.
The IRS does provide tips to help you choose a tax return preparer. These are:
- Check the IRS Directory of Preparers at https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf. The persons listed are enrolled agents, CPA, attorneys and other participants in the IRS’s annual filing season program. You can also verify the status of an enrolled agent at https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/verify-the-status-of-an-enrolled-agent
- Check to see if the tax preparer has a history with the Better Business Bureau.
- Ask the preparer about his/her credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent a taxpayer before the IRS. Other types of tax return preparers have limited practice rights before the IRS.
- Ask about the tax preparer’s fees at the outset. Avoid preparers who will charge you a percentage of the refund amount or who offer to deposit all or part of your anticipated refund in their financial account.
- Beware of tax preparers who promise that they can get you a large refund or a higher refund than other tax preparers.
- Ask the preparer what he/she will need to prepare your return. A reputable preparer will use your books and records and not estimate your deductions in order to increase the amount of your refund. A reputable preparer will not tell you that everyone does it and that the IRS will not catch you.
- Ask the tax preparer if the return will be e-filed. Electronically filed returns provide you proof that the IRS received and accepted the return. Refunds are generally processed quicker for e-filed returns.
- Ask the tax prepare if he/she has a PTIN and will be signing the return. Paid tax preparers are required to sign the return and include their PTIN. If the preparer will not be signing the return or including his/her PTIN, go elsewhere.
- Choose a firm or individual preparer who has a track record. You want a preparer who will be available to answer your questions about the return if the IRS comes calling you months or years after the return has been filed.
Always remember that it is your responsibility to review your return for accuracy. If there are things on your return that you do not understand, ask your preparer. Do not file the return until your questions have been answered and you are confident that the return is accurate.