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How to Choose a Tax Preparer

If you want to hire a paid tax preparer, it is important that you pick a qualified professional. Even though someone else is preparing your return, you remain responsible for the content, and for any penalty, interest or additional payment that results from an error. That’s why you need to choose the right person to handle your tax documents.

A state may or may not require tax preparers to be licensed, but it’s wise to hire someone who is and is also certified. Before choosing a certain tax preparer, make sure to ask the following questions:

> What formal tax training do you have?

> Do you have any professional licenses or designations, such as registered accounting practitioner (RAP), certified public accountant (CPA), accredited tax preparer (ATP), accredited tax advisor (ATA) or enrolled agent (EA)?

> Do you take continuing education courses yearly?

> How many years have you been in this type of work?

> Have you had a client with the same tax situation as mine?

> How much will you charge me and how do you determine your rates?

> Will you be able to help me any time of year if I run into problems?

> Are you authorized e-file returns, and are you going to represent me in an audit or collection matter when a situation arises?

> How do you guarantee your work?

> Can you give me some client references? Remember to check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.)

> Will the refund be deposited into my account or yours? (You should receive the refund in your account.)

Other Considerations

Stay away from those who promise to give you bigger refunds than other preparers, “guarantee” results, or take their fees as a percentage of your refund. Pick someone you can reach even after your return has been filed, and one who is known for being responsive to their clients’ needs. Note that processing is faster for e-filed returns than those that are mailed. Rather than depending on the preparer, check with the Treasury to know processing time frames.

Important Notes

It can never be stressed enough that you, as the taxpayer, will be responsible for everything that is on your return, whether or not you prepared it yourself. Be sure to review the document thoroughly before signing it. Check if all your personal details, such as your Social Security number, address, exemptions, etc.

Don’t ever sign a blank form, nor in pencil. Tax preparers need to sign the return, fill in the parts on the document(s) and give you a copy of your own. Always demand to get a copy, and then keep it your file for future reference.