Getting your taxes prepared is no easy feat and just because someone else is doing it for you doesn’t mean you don’t have some work to do. If you have been using the same service for the last few years and have not checked out the competition, this may be the year to do so in the interest of getting the most for your money. If you are satisfied with your current tax preparer, there are still some questions you should ask to be sure you are getting the best service possible.
Here are the top 5 questions you need to ask your tax preparation specialist before giving up your tax information:
Are You Licensed and Certified?
Tax preparers need to now file a registration with the IRS so they can receive a PTIN in order to legally be allowed to offer federal income tax preparation services for a fee. With this registration, the preparer cannot legally take your money to file your taxes. Under the same laws, certified tax preparation specialists are required to sign all the returns they have prepared and include their PTIN information. The IRS has guaranteed consequences for anyone not using a registered tax preparer and you can face stiff IRS financial penalties for using unregistered individuals. Make sure your tax preparer is legitimate and can legally sign off on your tax filings regardless of their other certifications and qualifications.
Do You Retain Professional Memberships?
There are several organizations of tax professionals which tax preparers may belong. These memberships offer special continuing education credits to ensure the tax specialists stay on top of tax law changes. Associating with a tax preparer involved with one or more of these organizations can help protect you from scams or unethical moves as many organizations hold their members to a special code of ethics and require specific skills sets to continue membership. Research a member of a groups such as the National Association of Tax Professionals online to find a qualified tax prep specialist.
How Much Will This Cost Me?
If your income status or personal information has changed concerning your taxes, you may end up with a bigger bill than you anticipated. It is always wise to ask for an estimate of how much preparation costs will be so you can ensure affordability. The more work the tax preparer has to put into your tax filings including schedules, forms, and other worksheets, the more they will likely charge you. Tax preparers should at least be able to give you an estimated upfront before doing the actual work. Never employ the services of a tax preparer who insists on charging you a fee based on a percentage of your income tax refund amount.
What Kind of Income Tax Returns Do You Work With?
There are many different rules and regulations concerning the filing of income tax returns. Just because an accountant advertises help with tax preparation does not mean they are qualified to help you when you work outside of the norm – such as the case with entrepreneurs. Some tax preparers can only handle simple filings and forms and may not be qualified to deal with unique circumstances in tax laws. Be upfront in asking what the preparer can and can’t handle so you aren’t wasting your time. You want someone familiar with the laws concerning your circumstances as well as someone experienced with the laws of your residence and working state.
How Will You Help in an Audit?
In the event the Internal Revenue Service audits your returns you should know what to expect from the individual that prepared your taxes. Many tax preparation specialists will guarantee full support in the event of an audit while others only may be willing to correspond with the IRS via the mail. Make sure you will not be charged additional money for audit assistance. You should also find out what will happen if a mistake is made on the tax filings and subsequently discovered by the IRS. Many tax preparers will be willing to pay for the penalties assessed on the errors made.