When choosing a tax professional to assist with your tax returns, you want to be sure your preparer of choice is current on tax laws as well as able to answer all of your questions about your taxes.
Choosing the best tax preparer is about connecting with a professional to get your taxes taken care of. For people who aren’t accustomed to handling their own taxes, tax time can be stressful and intimidating. Having an experienced tax preparer in your corner who understands your needs and works to file your taxes correctly and to your best advantage is important.
Here’s how you can choose the best tax preparer for your tax return.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Trying to find the right tax preparer for you involves asking the right questions. These include questions such as:
- Can you tell me about your experience? This is also where you can evaluate their credentials, learn about different types of tax returns they have experience with, and more.
- What is your process in the event I get audited? You need to know if your tax preparer can represent you, will be there to help, and answer questions. It’s a good idea to understand their services before working with them.
- How can I contact you after tax time is over? You should have a reliable way to contact this person in the event that you have questions about your return or any type of problem outside of the normal tax reason.
- Are you familiar of the requirements of the state where I’m filing? They should always have knowledge of the states and localities where you need to file.
In addition, you can also ask questions about your return, such as who will sign it, when to expect it, whether or not you can file electronically, and what they’ll need from you to prepare the return. A tax preparer who can’t answer these questions may not be your best choice.
Are They Licensed and Have a PTIN?
All tax preparers who assist with your return for any type of compensation are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You should always ask about their licensure and PTIN. Without the PTIN, they’re not legally permitted to prepare your tax return.
Should you have any doubt as to whether or not a tax preparer has a PTIN, you can search the IRS’ online directory for the tax professional in question.
In addition, be sure that your potential tax preparer has the proper training to practice in your state. Some tax professionals are required to pass an exam with the Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulations. This includes tax preparers in the State of Maryland.
Red Flags When Hiring a Tax Preparer
As with hiring any professional, you should always be aware of red flags that could indicate this person isn’t looking out for your best interest.
Remember, you are legally responsible for the information on your tax return, so you need to be sure you review all the information before you sign it and it’s submitted. You should never a sign a blank tax form—any tax preparer that asks you to do this is likely not conducting legal business.
You should also be skeptical of preparers that don’t have a PTIN or claim they can get you a bigger refund than anyone else. This includes preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
Preparers who refuse to sign your form may also be fraudulent. Be aware of these red flags when you’re looking for a tax preparer—it’s always essential to get a tax professional who wants to genuinely help you.
What to Do if Your Current Tax Professional Isn’t Doing Due Diligence
If your current tax professional isn’t doing their job or you feel as though your tax return has been prepared incorrectly, you can and should find a new tax professional.
In the event that you’d like to file a complaint with the IRS, you can certainly do this whether or not your return has been affected by their behavior. You may also want to seek legal help as appropriate if your return has been affected or if you are facing legal charges due to a tax discrepancy.