8 tips for choosing a tax preparer
This checklist can help you find the right tax advisor.
Finding a qualified and competent tax preparer isn’t always easy. If your financial situation has become more complex or you’d just like the assistance of a professional, here are some tips to help you choose a good tax preparer:
1. VERIFY THE PERSON’S QUALIFICATIONS.
Make sure your preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that offers continuing education and ethical guidelines. The IRS provides a list of these types of organizations.
2. CHECK ON THE PREPARER’S HISTORY.
Look for disciplinary actions and valid licenses with the state board of accountancy (for certified public accountants), state bar association (for attorneys) and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (for enrolled agents).
3. ESTABLISH THEIR FEES UPFRONT.
Avoid preparers whose fee is a percentage of your refund and those who claim they can obtain a larger refund for you than other preparers.
4. MAKE SURE THE PREPARER IS ACCESSIBLE.
You want to be able to contact the preparer throughout the year.
5. ASK THE PREPARER TO DESCRIBE THE DOCUMENTS THEY’LL WANT TO SEE.
Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you questions to help them prepare your return.
6. NEVER SIGN A BLANK RETURN.
This could be a sign of potential fraud. You are responsible for the information on your tax return regardless of whether someone else prepared it. Review it before signing and ask questions about any entries you’re unsure about.
7. WILL THE PREPARER SIGN YOUR TAX RETURN ALONG WITH YOU AND INCLUDE HIS OR HER PREPARER TAX IDENTIFICATION NUMBER?
The law requires paid preparers to sign the return and include their PTIN, even though you remain responsible for the return’s accuracy. The preparer must also give you a copy of your return.
8. IF MISTAKES ARE MADE, WILL THE PREPARER PAY THE INTEREST AND PENALTIES LEVIED BY THE IRS?
Though you are always legally responsible for the information that appears on your return, honorable and professional preparers will agree to pay any interest or penalties resulting from their errors. Get their promise in writing and in advance.
You can also call us at (833) PLAN-EFE to help with your search. We can provide you a list of tax preparers near you.
Neither Edelman Financial Engines nor its affiliates offer tax or legal advice. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to include your qualified tax and/or legal professionals in these discussions and decisions to help determine the best options for your particular circumstances.