Choosing a tax preparer doesn't sound like fun.
If you want your taxes done the right way, it's a necessary process. These people are responsible for accurately filing your taxes, but they also have access to a lot of personal information. For that reason, trust is the number one factor in this process.
In this post, we're going to help you choose the right tax professional to get the job done. There are various routes that you can go with this choice, whether it be a tax accountant, an attorney, or an enrolled agent.
Choosing the right one will have implications on your financial situation, which of course, has an impact on your quality of life and the quality of life for those in your household. Let's find you the right tax professional.
Choosing the Right Tax Preparer
A lot of people hire a tax preparer instead of doing their taxes themselves. However, what most people don't really think about is that they're still responsible for any mistakes that occur, not the person that prepares the tax forms.
It's crucial that you get someone experienced and trustworthy to prepare your taxes. Now, we'll go through how to do this.
Types of Tax Preparers
There are four main types of tax preparers that you'll be choosing from. They offer different rates and different levels of expertise, so you need to make yourself aware of what each professional is capable of.
First, there are paid tax preparers. Anyone can apply to be a paid tax preparer with a preparer tax identification number (PTID). This certification allows you to prepare and file tax returns in return for a fee of your choosing.
Enrolled agents aren't required to get a formal education, but they do have to enroll in a 3-part IRS administered test to obtain certification. The test ensures that they are proficient in tax planning, individual tax preparation, and business tax preparation.
A certified public accountant (CPA) will have graduated with a BA in accounting. They're then required to pass the 14-hour, 4-part CPA examination to become licensed. They have to meet their state's requirements for continuing education and are must comply with state and national ethical standards.
Lastly, all attorneys are licensed to prepare taxes, but most will not partake in it. Tax attorneys are most likely to prepare taxes, but they mainly specialize in tax law and represent clients with tax issues.
Figuring Out What You Need
Now that you know what you're dealing with, how do you choose what will work for you? To figure out what type of preparer you should proceed with, you first have to figure out what you need.
The most sensical plan is to find a tax preparer that is capable of exceeding what your needs are. If you're simply filing your W-2 tax forms but don't feel comfortable doing it all yourself, then a paid tax preparer or enrolled agent will more than likely be fine for you.
For more complicated tax situations, however, you'll probably need a wider knowledge base to file correctly. If you're filing business taxes, then you're going to need a CPA. CPA's are qualified to file more complicated returns that involve income from more than one source.
If you go with a CPA, you're also guaranteeing yourself a certain level of expertise. Even someone straight out of the CPA examination has another 3-4 years of accounting education under their belt. That doesn't mean that a brand new CPA is going to do a better job than an experienced enrolled agent or tax preparer.
How to Choose the Right One
The tax preparer that's going to do right by you should satisfy some criteria. Here are a few things to consider when making your final decision:
First, consider the tax preparer's qualifications. You can check on them with this tool from the IRS to ensure that you're working with a qualified professional.
Scope out online reviews and ensure that your tax preparer is in good standing with the BBB. You can also look at disciplinary actions that have been taken, as well as the license status of the preparer by searching the state associations that gave out their credentials.
Next, you should always be aware of what the tax preparer's fees are. Don't give out any personal information when trying to find this out and avoid preparers that guarantee larger returns or base their fees on percentages of your return.
Ensure their availability. There's a hard deadline for tax returns, so you should get someone that will have the time to complete your forms on time.
Make sure that you can file online. E-file is the fastest way to get your return directly into your bank account.
Lastly, your tax preparer should always ask for records and receipts. They need these things to figure out total income, deductions, and credits. If they don't ask for these things, it's probably a bad sign.
Things to Be Wary Of
You should never use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank form. Furthermore, you should always review your forms before signing and submitting them. You can have the utmost trust in your preparer, but at the end of the day, you yourself need to be sure that everything was completed correctly.
If anything seems a little fishy during the tax preparation process, don't be afraid to report it to the IRS. It's highly unlikely that you're going to run into a tax preparer that tries to take advantage of you, but it is possible. There are forms available on the IRS website to formally file complaints against certified tax preparers.
Get Your Taxes Done Right
Now that you know what various tax professionals are capable of and what questions you need to ask yourself about them, you can confidently find the right tax preparer for your needs. Remember, it's important that you make the right choice, so take your time and talk to a few people before deciding.
At PJF Tax, we offer integrated tax planning and preparation for individuals and families in Plymouth, MN. We've got dedicated professionals on our team with incredibly high levels of expertise to get your taxes done right. Contact us today to obtain a quote for your tax preparation.