The key, as with hiring any professional, is to ask lots of questions. And not just about how much it’s going to cost. Lots questions also apply when hiring a tax preparer.
Here’s a list of 10 questions you should ask before hiring a tax preparer:
Do you have a PTIN (preparer tax identification number)?
Anyone who prepares federal tax returns for compensation must have a valid 2014 PTIN before preparing returns. Without a PTIN, the preparer is not allowed to prepare your return.
Have you prepared an x type of tax return before?
It’s not uncommon for tax preparers – especially those that have been around for awhile – to have a pretty wide scope of knowledge. But nobody can do it all and don’t trust anyone who tells you otherwise. If you have special circumstances because of your investments, occupation or residency status, find a tax preparer who has experience with your specific situation.
Do you know the requirements of the states and localities where I am required to file?
Your state or locality may have quirky filing requirements, especially for business owners. It can get even more complicated if you’ve moved from state to state during the year or if you live in one state and work in another. You may also need special help if you own a business or real estate in a state outside of your residency or if you are the beneficiary of a trust or estate in another state.
What records and other documentation will you need from me?
While you shouldn’t be expected to bring in the contents of your entire home office, a reputable preparer should insist that you provide your W-2, 1099, 1098 and other verification of income and expenses in order to prepare a proper return.
How do you determine your fees?
Prices may vary based on the complexity of your return, whether you require additional schedules (such as dividend and interest on Schedule B, business information on Schedule C, capital gains and losses on Schedule D and/or rental income and losses on Schedule E); supporting forms (such as those for the child tax credit or additional charitable donation information); or whether your return has “out of the ordinary” line items (like Roth IRA conversions or homebuyer credit repayment). Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your anticipated refund: they have a financial incentive to encourage inappropriate credits and deductions.
Can I file electronically?
More than 1 billion individual tax returns have been processed since the debut of electronic filing in 1990. It’s the quickest way to get your refund and tends to result in fewer math errors. It may also be required: a paid preparer who prepares and files more than ten client returns must file electronically unless the client opts out.
Who will sign my return?
Remember that your preparer must have a PTIN (see again #1). The PTIN and the preparer’s signature need to appear on your tax return. Don’t trust a preparer who refuses to sign a return. And watch out for any preparer or service who won’t tell you in advance who will actually be preparing the return.
When will I receive a copy of my return?
It’s possible to leave your preparer’s office without a copy of your completed return. However, you should receive a complete copy of your return within a reasonable amount of time following your first appointment. If your preparer can’t offer a window of time to expect the copy, it might mean they have a time management problem.
How do I find you if I have a question or a problem after tax season is over?
Clients often receive requests from taxing authorities for additional information in October or November and can no longer locate their tax preparer. Make sure that you know how to contact the tax preparer after your return has been filed. If your tax preparer won’t be around, consider taking your business elsewhere.
What happens if I get audited?
Nobody wants to think about an audit when filing a return. But you need to ask about it now so that you don’t end up in trouble later. Find out how the tax preparer handles audits or examinations from the IRS.
I didn’t know that there was so much to ask a tax preparer for. I think ti would be smart to know what you would need to file just because it would really make a difference. You also won’t get in trouble because you will have sent everything in how it needed to go.
That’s so interesting; I never knew that tax preparers working with more than 10 people must file electronically, unless a client opts for the non-electronic method. I think I would personally want to find a preparer that makes use of electronic forms and methods. If it causes less errors, it’s definitely worth it! I’ll have to check for that when I start finding one.
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Great content, very useful information. Thank you for sharing.
I agree that it’s a good idea to ask your tax preparer if they’ve worked with a specific type of tax return like yours. This can help establish more of your trust in them as their client. Taxes can get pretty complex, especially as your financial and family situations grow and change. It’s important that you feel confident that you are getting the best return possible while being as truthful as possible with your tax return.
I like that you mentioned making sure they have electronic options. It is amazing how many people have turned to this method and avoided mistakes doing so. If you have referrals, I would still ask these good questions.
I want to make sure that I get my taxes figured out. It makes sense that I would want to get a professional to help me with this! I wouldn’t want to get audited, after all.
I can definitely see why it would be convenient to file your tax return electronically. I tend to struggle to keep my tax forms organized. I definitely think that we should find a professional that could help us to prepare properly.
It really can help to take the article’s advice and make sure that the tax preparer you hire knows what is expected of taxes in your state. Every state does have their own little laws on how taxes should be prepared after all. Because of this, the preparer you hire had better know how to make your tax return legal for the state where you live.
My brother needs to file his taxes soon. He’s looking for a good tax preparation service to ensure he gets the biggest return possible. I didn’t realize how important it is to choose a service that has knowledge of the local filing requirements to ensure there are no issues. I’ll be sure to share this info with my brother.
It’s great to know what to ask when hiring a tax professional. I like how you pointed out that it’s always smart to ask if they have done your type of tax return before. When I was a student, it was much different than now, so I know how different they can be.
I think that being able to talk to a tax return preparation service and ask the question of whether or not they’ve done one before like you talked about. I never would have thought about asking a tax return prepare person if they had done my type of tax return before. I’m really glad that you included that question in your article, and I think that being able to get my tax return preparation done by someone with experience would be the most beneficial thing to me! Thanks for the suggestions!
That’s a good tip to find a preparer who can handle your return. The tax law is so complex that people specialize in areas of it. I bet businesses really benefit from preparers since there’s so many types of deductions.
It really helped when you talked about the importance of choosing a tax professional that has experience with situations like yours. I can see how doing this can help you make sure you get your tax issues resolved properly and legally. Personally, I would want to find a tax preparer that can advise me on how to get the most of my return and who really cares about helping me resolve my issues.
I never realized how important it is to choose a tax prep service that can help handle an audit from the IRS to ensure you don’t end up in trouble later. My brother just bought two rental properties. Hopefully, he can use this article to find a pro that can help him navigate his taxes.
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I appreciate your tip to find a tax preparer who has experience with your specific needs. It always take my husband and I a long time to do our taxes, and can’t imagine what it would be like if we had a business. I’m sure that if we had a company, we’d be finding someone who has experience, in order to help us through the process.
I like that you mentioned to make sure you coordinate with your tax preparer on the best way to stay in communication with them. That way, if you ever need some new information, you will be able to get it quickly. I have some issues with my taxes this year, and I am trying to find the right tax preparer to help me solve my problem. I will make sure I keep these tips in mind as I search.
Thanks for the advice for hiring a tax preparer. My wife and I want to hire someone to help us with our taxes, because we don’t really know what we’re doing! It’d be great to find someone who knows the laws of the state we live in, and operate here frequently.
Thanks for letting me know that the tax preparer needs to sign the return and have a PTIN. I have tax problems. Namely, it’s because I’m just really confused about how everything works, and I’m worried about doing something wrong. I’ll have to find a tax service that will have someone who can help me with them.
I didn’t know that tax preparers had to have a PTIN. My wife and I just moved to a new area and we’re looking for a new tax preparation service. We’ll employ this advice as we look for a new service.
My wife and I have been thinking about hiring a tax planning service, and I think that being able to have some questions to ask would be helpful for us! I’m glad that you mentioned asking how a tax planner determines fees, and that it may just be based on the complexity of the needed services. I’m going to have to see if we can talk to a few different tax planning services and see what our best option would be! Thanks for the info!
I’m glad that you talked about some different things that go along with hiring tax services, and some questions that you should get answered. I’m really glad that you talked about being able to ask when you will get a copy of your return, which I think is good information to get. I’m going to have to remember these questions when I hire tax services and hopefully get some quality help! Thanks!
I like that you mentioned how one’s tax preparer should be experienced in your specific situation to make sure you’ll get the best outcome for your tax return. That’s perfect for those businesses that have a lot to file when it comes to their taxes since they would be able to prevent any issues that might potentially occur. Hopefully, I would be able to acquire the help of a tax preparer someday when I have enough money to fight for my tax. Thanks!
My wife and I are getting ready to file our taxes for next year, but we’ve never worked with a tax preparer before. I like that you suggest bringing your W-2, 1099, and 1098 forums when you meet. We’ll be sure to bring the right legal paperwork so they have all the information they need. Thanks for the tips!
I’ve been thinking of hiring someone to help me prepare my taxes, so you’re article was quite helpful to me. I didn’t realize just how much research ought to go into hiring the right person to prepare my return for me! I especially appreciated your suggestion to ask how you can stay in contact with your tax preparer after tax season in case I have any additional questions or concerns.
It’s nice to know how to find a tax preparer. I didn’t even know that a PTIN number existed, so that’s great information! When we hire someone, I’ll be sure to check for that number.
Thanks for mentioning to get a copy of your return! I like to keep those for my personal records. I will keep that in mind, and ask my next tax prep guy if he can get that to me as soon as possible.
It’s good to know that tax filing might be difficult if you are a business owner. I’ve been thinking of starting up my own business this year, so this is definitely good to know. I’ll be sure to look at hiring a good CPA to help make sure I file all of my taxes properly when the time comes.
Reading through this article I had no idea how or what any of the answers were to the question. I don’t even know how to determine my fees. I believe I will need to seek help with tax preparation! It is important to me things are done right!
I’ve recently opened a small business and I need to hire an accountant or tax consultant for my business. I like that the article provides a list of questions to ask whoever you’re hiring. I think the question about what documents they will need is especially important, and I’m glad I know that a reputable service should ask for my W-2, 1099, and 1098.
I hate doing taxes, and I really want to hire someone to help me with them. So, I liked what you suggested about asking them what types of documentation they like to work with. That does seem like a good thing to be aware of when you want to make things easier on yourself and the person you hire.
Thank you for this informative guide on what to as your tax preparers. I really appreciate that you covered payments and asking the tax preparer what they do for fees. You mentioned that some may charge more for an IRA, or homebuyer credits, and to avoid preparers who take a portion of your refund. This was great advice that will hopefully save me money this tax season.
I’m thinking of hiring a tax preparation professional in the near future to help with my taxes. I appreciate how you suggest asking about what kind of experience they have preparing returns. I’ll be sure to do this since I want to make sure I hire someone with plenty of experience.
I like how you said that, when hiring a tax preparation service, it’s important to make sure that they understand the requirements of the state and localities where you are required to file. I think that a tax service that knows the law and requirements is reliable because they will be able to ensure that no errors be made while filing, so you can have peace of mind. My friend owns a business, and isn’t sure how to keep track of tax reports while managing his company. I’ll have to recommend that he hire a tax service in his area that can manage this financial aspect for him, and that understands the most up-to-date tax laws so he doesn’t have to worry about it.