When it comes to income taxes it is crucial to find someone who you can trust and will do a good job. How should you start by going about finding a tax professional? It’s easier to ask for referrals first before leafing through the yellow pages. I would suggest by asking either other professionals that you work with already, your banker, financial advisor, lawyer, and asking if they can refer you to someone. It is also important to find out those preparer’s credentials.
Certified Public Accountants – are required to have a college degree and pass a rigorous certification exam that covers topics from tax preparation, audit, law, and accounting. Many CPA’s will go beyond tax preparation and provide business and professional advice. They are required to fulfill continuing education requirements on an ongoing basis, and are authorized to represent you if you are audited.
Enrolled Agents – must have at least five years of IRS work experience or have taken an exam administered by the IRS. They are required to fulfill continuing education requirements and are authorized to represent you if you are audited.
Unlicensed Tax Preparers – Anyone can be a tax preparer but it is important to ask these people how long they’ve been doing income taxes, what kind of returns they have been doing. These individuals typically are not allowed to represent you if you are audited.
Once you feel you have the names of three different qualified preparers call their office to set up an initial interview to discuss pricing and to ask questions. Here are sample questions to ask this person.
- How long have they been in business? What is their specialty?
- What other services does the tax preparer provide, for example business advice, estate and gift planning, tax planning?
- When can you expect that they will have the work completed? Will they be preparing the return or will a staff member be preparing the return?
- Will they be outsourcing to a 3rd party? You should not have to pay CPA prices to have a sweat shop employee in India prepare your return, plus you will lose out on that privacy protection.
Also, avoid those preparers who appear to show signs of being fraudulent. Warning signs would be if their fee is a percentage of your refund, they have you sign blank forms, or they offer to make up tax deductions to boost your refund. Many people have different needs when it comes to a tax preparer so take the time to think about your taxes and own situation and pick someone who is qualified to help you.
In addition, choose a preparer that you will be able to contact after the return is filed and one who will be responsive to your needs. Many of the large franchise tax preparation companies are gone most months out of the year and you will have to call an 800 number and speak with someone who will inevitably give you the run around if you have a question. Also, these tax preparation services are usually NOT less expensive than small shops – and they tend to hit you with fees for “extras” and try to sell you products. If the initial quote is small, ask about add-ons, “accuracy guarantees” and rapid refund costs. Overall it is important to choose someone who is responsive to you, and that you can communicate well with.
Call us today at (970) 482-6947 to set-up an initial consultation, and find out if we are the right accountant for you.