It’s officially tax season, which means it’s time to get your finances in order. From knowing what forms you need to collect, to navigating your way through an audit, a seasoned tax professional can help with all of the complicated nuances of tax law. Here are 9 tips for finding and working with a local tax professional to file your tax return:
1. Check the preparer’s qualifications and affiliations
Having a tax preparer you can trust and who understands your unique needs is extremely important. When it comes to paying your taxes, the last thing you need is a surprise. Using a tax pro who is an NATP member means you can rest assured you’re in good hands. Our members are continually taking education to remain informed of all the latest tax law changes and how those changes could affect your return. Plus, we require all members to agree to a superior standard of professional conduct before their application is accepted.
2. Check the preparer’s history
Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Look for disciplinary actions and license status for your preferred credentialed preparer. For specific types of preparers, check with the following agencies:
- EAs: Visit the Verify Enrolled Agent Status page on IRS.gov
- CPAs: Check with the State Board of Accountancy
- Attorneys: Check with the State Bar Association
3. Ask about service fees
Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or boast bigger refunds than their competition.
4. Make sure the preparer is available
Tax professionals’ schedules fill up quickly because there is only a certain amount of time available to file a return. Between the new client meeting and filing a return, there are a lot of steps the tax pro needs to take to complete their due diligence. Contact your preparer as soon as you can to get your appointment scheduled. Taxpayers should avoid “fly-by-night” preparers.
5. Provide records and receipts
A qualified tax pro will ask for your records and receipts, and will ask questions to figure out total income, tax deductions and credits. Remember, even though you are using a tax preparer, it’s up to you to make sure everything is reported! If you are missing forms, be sure to let your preparer know. It’s also good practice to bring last year’s tax return to your appointment.
6. Review before signing
Your return should always be complete before signing. Never sign a blank tax form and taxpayers should ask questions if something is not clear. If you feel uncomfortable about the accuracy of your return, ask more questions. Once you sign the return, you are solely responsible for the information on it.
7. Review details about any refund
Taxpayers should make sure their refund goes directly to them, not to the preparer’s bank account. (This is illegal!) Also review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.
8. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN
All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
9. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS
Most tax return preparers are honest and can provide great service to their clients, especially those who are an NATP member. However, some preparers are dishonest. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS using Form 1457.