Finding a Tax Preparation Expert You Can Rely On

The tax deadline is quickly approaching and many of you reading this have probably not gotten started as of yet. (Hey, we’re just being honest.) If you planned on preparing them yourself but you’re worried that you’re running out of time you may wish to consider hiring a professional tax preparation expert.  The average cost across the US is about $250.00 give or take and, statistically speaking,  you’ll probably get back what you spend even if they only find one extra deduction.

Finding a tax expert is your only worry then and, to that end, we have put together a little list of the things you should look for and the questions that you should ask so that you do.  Enjoy!

Is your ‘expert’ tax preparer a certified public accountant or just a tax preparer?  Don’t get us wrong but, if it was our money, we’d be asking a CPA to handle it and not someone who ‘does taxes’ for a few months a year at the local Wal-Mart. CPAs, by the way, are required to take 40 hours of training a year to keep up with the tax codes.  Tax preparers are not.

Even if you choose to hire a tax prep person rather than a CPA all tax preparers have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) that they must have.  You should ask to see this and, if they can’t provide one, walk away and find one that can.  This is a minimum requirement that, unfortunately, many don’t even bother to get.

You should also ask your expert if they are a tax preparer all year or only during ‘tax season’. (Which is unrelated to rabbit or duck season, just fyi.) If they don’t it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not a good person for the job but just that, if you need them in August when the IRS has a question, will they be available to help you or busy with their other job?

Of course asking if they will have your taxes filed by the deadline is a definite must.  If it’s really close and they say yes you should ask to get it in writing because if they don’t you will be the one who has to pay the penalties for filing an extension, not them.

Keep in mind that a tax preparer can’t represent you in front of the IRS only a CPA, IRS enrolled agent or an attorney can do that.  If you have any notion that you may need representation later a tax preparer may not be your best bet now.

Last but not least is to ask them what their fees are. While this will vary from person to person and preparer to preparer it is not difficult to answer or at least get a ‘ball park’ figure.  One thing that’s a certainty is that the more complex your return the more the cost will be.

And there you have them.  The most important facts to know and questions to ask so that your taxes will get filed correctly and, if you’re due, your return will be in your mailbox as soon as possible.

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