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How to Choose a Tax Preparer

If you want to hire a paid tax preparer, it is important that you pick a qualified professional. Though someone else prepares your return, the content remains your responsibility, including everything that may result from an error, such as interest or penalty. That’s why it’s a must that you are careful in picking the person to take care of your tax documents.

Some states do not require tax preparers to carry a license, but it’s good to hire one who does and is certified. Before you select a particular tax preparer, be sure to ask the following questions:

> What type of formal tax training did you acquire?

> Do you have any professional licenses or designations, such as registered accounting practitioner (RAP), certified public accountant (CPA), accredited tax preparer (ATP), accredited tax advisor (ATA) or enrolled agent (EA)?

> Do you enroll in continuing professional education courses every year?

> How long have you been preparing taxes for clients?

> Have you worked with a client who had a tax situation similar to mine?

> How much will you charge me and how do you determine your rates?

> Will you be available all year round to help me with any problems I may encounter?

> Are you authorized to e-file returns, and will you represent me in an audit or collection matter when it comes up?

> How do you guarantee your work?

> Can you provide client references? (Don’t forget to check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.)

> Whose account does the refund go to – yours or mine? (The money must be sent to your account.)

Other Considerations

Forget those who get paid by taking a percentage of your refund, claim to give you bigger refunds than anyone else, and “guarantee” results. Select someone who will be around for you even after the return is filed, and one who will continue to be responsive to your needs. Note that processing is faster for e-filed returns than those that are mailed. Don’t rely on the preparer to know the time frames for processing returns; instead, check with the Treasury.

Important Notes

As mentioned – and it is always worth repeating – taxpayers are responsible for what is in their returns, even if you have a preparer working for you. Don’t sign the document unless you have reviewed it thoroughly. See if all your personal information is accurate, like your Social Security number, address, types and sources of income, and so on.

Never sign a blank form or any form with a pencil. Tax preparers should sign the return, fill in the relevant areas on the form(s) and give you a copy. Always demand for a copy, making sure you keep it for reference later on.

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