Choosing a Tax preparer
Accounting professionals operate in various work environments. Some work for accounting firms and may be self employed. Most accountants specialize in a specific capacity, including taxes, accounts receivable, cost accounting, bookkeeping, and more. Whatever the case, their accounting responsibilities can include analyzing accounting records, computing taxes, developing budgets, providing auditing services and even giving security advice concerning document destruction.
American taxpayers can benefit from hiring a qualified tax accountant. Before you spend your time and money, review the following information to help protect yourself.
Why Do I Need a Tax Accountant?
You should take some time to focus on exactly why you need a tax accountant. Here are some situations that will help you focus on why you need a tax accountant :
- You want to make sure your tax return is accurate.
- You want to save time. Preparing your own taxes takes a lot of time, and you want to streamline the process.
- You want your preparer to help you understand the new tax laws that seem to change year-after-year. After all, you don't have the time to conduct the research yourself.
- A tax professional can provide you with specific answers to your specific questions. Your problem may be unique, and a qualified professional can help you make smarter tax-saving decisions.
- You want the peace-of-mind in knowing that a professional is helping you. Your current tax situation is complex, and it's stressful and confusing. You want the comfort and confidence of being side-by-side with a professional.
- You would like to pay as little taxes to the government as possible.
- You are facing a minor or serious tax problem and want to know your rights and possible solutions.
- You are being audited, and want a tax preparer with this kind of experience to prepare your return.
- You need advice because you run a business, invest in the stock market, own rental property, or live outside the U.S.
- A tax professional can help you plan all year and for future years.
Finding a Tax Accountant
Referrals are sometimes a good bet. Ask everyone you can think of: family, friends, financial advisors and tax attorneys. It will help to ask a friend who has a similar tax situation to yours.
If you are being audited, don't hire a tax professional who has never handled an audit before. It's important to consider that you, not your accountant, are responsible for the information on your tax return.
Things to keep in mind when choosing a Tax Accountant to prepare your taxes:
- New regulations require all paid tax return preparers including attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)— even if they already have one — before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011.
- Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.
- Avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
- Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
- Find out how long the process will take.
- Make sure that your preparer requests to see your records and receipts. He should also ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
- Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
- Accountants sometimes hire bookkeepers or accounting clerks to aid with the process of filing the return. Make sure that your records and return are not being handled by uncertified clerks or unpaid interns. There are well-documented cases of unqualified individuals who steal confidential information such as full names, birth dates and social security numbers.
- Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
- Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN, as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.