It’s tax season, which means that whether you’re an individual seeking out accountants or a small business owner looking for tax services, you’re probably looking for someone to help you get the greatest possible benefits and least possible losses from your tax returns. The fact is that taxes are confusing and a lot of us don’t know what we’re doing when we try to handle them ourselves. You may end up paying when you really shouldn’t if you attempt to handle your taxes on your own; or conversely, you may find yourself missing out on funds that you should have been given.
Fortunately, there are plenty of professional tax preparers on the market. The question is how you decide between one accountant and another when they seem to offer the same tax services. That’s what we’re looking into today. Below are a few tips on choosing the right accountant for you.
As previously mentioned, there are many different accounting firms on the market, and they all seem to offer the same types of tax services. But you need to make sure that you are working with someone legitimate before you really begin vetting them. Therefore, when looking into a tax preparer, ask for their preparer tax identification number first. Every certified individual who offers tax prep services for compensation is required to have this number by the IRS. Volunteers do not need to have this number. If an accountant cannot provide a number through which you can look them up and ensure that they are legitimate, you should walk away.
It’s one thing to get a preparer tax identification number; this is actually not all that difficult to obtain. It’s another thing to have the more advanced types of certifications and credentials that tax preparers like certified public accountants, tax attorneys, enrolled agents, or someone who has completed the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program will be able to offer. You don’t want to be glib about who is handling your tax services. Make sure that the person you’re working with can offer specific credentials. They will have gone through a significant amount of study to obtain them and will have skills that otherwise would be hard to find.
Once you know that you’re dealing with people that offer the same types of tax services and the same or similar credentials, you can begin comparing their fees. Now, you don’t want to choose a less qualified person simply because they offer services for significantly less. But that doesn’t mean that hiring the person who charges the most will get you the best services, either. You should view hiring a tax professional much as you would view hiring a contractor for your house. Take a bid — ask about all of the services they offer and how much they would charge. Most tax professionals will have a minimum fee that will cover the basic preparation services, and then charge more based on each form and schedule needed in your return. The more complex your return, the more expensive the total service will be. Therefore, you need to make sure that you’re not only aware of their set fee, but of everything that could be added on top of it.
If a tax preparer files more than 10 returns for clients, they must file electronically. If a tax preparer does not offer their services, they might not be as experienced as you would think and should be reconsidered.
You need to make sure that your preparer will sign your return and offer their preparer tax identification number, as stipulated by the IRS. Additionally, if they want you to sign a blank tax return, walk away. They can put whatever they want on a blank return, including their own bank account number, in order to steal your refund.
With all this in mind, it can be a bit intimidating to choose a tax professional. But the more careful you are, the easier it will be for you to choose the right professional for you.
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