by Susan Paige
Are you just as confused about taxes as everyone else? Taxes are confusing, and the tax code is long and always changing.
That makes doing your own taxes a nightmare.
Are you in a pinch to get your taxes done on time? You certainly don’t want to wait until the last minute to find a tax preparer.
It’s their busy season, and you need to find one that can get everything done and your taxes filed without any issues.
Read on to find out what to look for in tax preparers and how you can find the right one for your needs.
1. What Are Your Needs?
The first thing you need to do is assess your needs. You may have a very basic return with a W-2 form and no investments to speak of.
You may have a business, or you became part of the gig economy. Your tax needs will be very different from someone who is employed.
In cases where you live abroad like a digital nomad, your tax preparation needs will be different. Yes, even if you don’t live in the U.S., you still need to file taxes.
You’ll want to understand what your tax needs are, so you can find a tax preparer that meets those needs.
2. Do Your Research
Tax preparation is complex, and some firms specialize in certain areas. You’ll want to do your research, starting by getting personal referrals.
You’ll want to check out the website of each firm to see what they do. You’ll also want to check the Better Business Bureau and other online review sites to see what previous clients had to say about them.
3. Look for Licenses and Accreditations
The first thing that you want to look for in a tax preparer is how qualified they are to work on your taxes. There are some tax professionals that are great for certain situations.
Tax attorneys are good to use if there is any potential criminal activity that occurred in the past or if there is pending litigation.
CPAs are generally the tax professionals you should need for your taxes. CPAs are trained to handle just about any tax situation, from audits to representing you in some IRS appeals. In criminal matters, however, a CPA will have to refer you to an attorney.
There are also IRS enrolled agents, who can represent your interests at just about every level of the IRS. Enrolled agents are licensed by the IRS, where CPAs are licensed by state boards.
PTIN holders are tax preparers that have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. They can work on taxes, but they may not have a CPA or any other license. This is the most basic level of tax preparation service and is good to use for standard returns.
That being said, every tax preparer, whether they’re a CPA or agent has to have a PTIN number.
4. Know the Common Scams
Unfortunately, there are tax preparers that are scam artists. The more you know about these scams, the more you can do to protect yourself.
There are people who say that they’ll get paid according to how much your return is. That’s a major red flag. Another scam is when people prepare your returns without your W-2s, 1099s, and other tax documents.
There are also people who say they are from the IRS and threaten to arrest you. The IRS will not call you, they’ll send out letters.
5. Ask About the Fee Structure
Tax preparers have different ways to bill clients. Some will charge a flat fee to do your taxes, while others will charge you after they’re done with your return.
You may be billed according to the number of forms required. If your tax return required a Schedule C, 1040, and other forms, you may get billed more.
Get clear as to how much you can expect to pay for their services. Some tax preparers are reluctant to give you a price until they know what they’re getting into. Ask them for an estimate or a ballpark figure.
Also, get clear as to when you need to pay. Many tax preparers won’t file your taxes with the IRS until your bill is paid in full.
6. Do They Provide Advice or Just Do Taxes?
This is a very important distinction to ask tax preparers. You want to have a tax preparer that helps you minimize your tax burden in a way that’s legal.
They should help you come up with a plan to develop a long term tax strategy. For example, if you have a business, they should advise you from a tax perspective as to when the best time to invest in the business is.
7. How Do They Handle IRS Letters and Audits?
You may find yourself in a situation where you have issues with the IRS. You may get letters requesting information or the IRS may want to audit your taxes.
You want to know if you’re on your own or if your tax preparer will assist you. They may offer a couple of hours and then you need to pay an hourly rate after that.
The Best Tax Preparers for Your Taxes
Taxes are complicated and very confusing. It can be even more so if you have a business, self-employment income, or investments. Even if you’re an ex-pat, you still have to file a tax return.
Out of all of the tax preparers out there, you need to find the one that’s right for you. You have to assess your needs and find the tax preparer that can best meet those needs. You want to make sure that your tax preparer is upfront about their fees and understands how to help you minimize your taxes legally.
The best tax preparers won’t stop at doing your taxes this year. They’ll help you develop a tax strategy for the years to come.
Do you want more tips on finances and lowering debt? Come back to this site often for more helpful articles.