Choosing a tax preparer can be a difficult task. Your tax preparer should be someone you feel comfortable with and can trust. The IRS has some pointers to keep in mind:
- Is the preparer affiliated with a professional organization? Most reputable professional organizations have classes available for members and require its members to adopt a code of ethics.
- Check the preparer’s history. Look for any disciplinary actions taken by the state board of accountancy (CPAs), state bar association (attorneys), or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (EAs).
- Inquire about their service fee structure. The IRS recommends avoiding preparers who base their fees on a percentage of your refund, or claim that they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
- Check the accessibility of your preparer; after April 15th, will you be able to contact your preparer if a question should arise concerning your return?
- Provide access to all of your records and receipts for your return. You should expect your preparer to ask you questions in order to ensure all of your income and your qualified expenses have been accounted for on your return.
- NEVER sign a blank return.
- Review your return before signing. Remember you are ultimately responsible for the information reported, or not reported, on your tax return. If you don’t understand everything, ask your preparer to explain it to you.
- The paid preparer must sign the return and include his or her Preparer’s Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required by law to sign the returns they prepare and provide their PTIN.
Ask around of your family and friends as to whom they use to prepare their tax returns. Don’t just ask only what they like about their preparer, but also what they wish their preparer would do differently. Write out a list of questions to bring with you to discuss with a preparer to determine if he or she would be a good fit for you.