Tax PreparerEach year, companies and taxpayers hasten to file income tax forms before the deadline, and each year changes to the tax laws may mean new requirements, new restrictions and new forms. All of this information can create confusion, making the process of preparing a tax return seem like a daunting task.

Most companies and more than half of taxpayers hire a professional to prepare their tax return so if you feel like you may need assistance, you’re not alone. According to the IRS, an income tax preparer is any person who receives compensation for the preparation of all or a substantial portion of any tax return for an entity or another individual. That said, not all tax preparers are equal and it’s essential to choose the best tax professional for your tax situation.

Most tax return preparers provide outstanding service. However, every year, some taxpayers are hurt financially because they choose the wrong tax return preparer. No matter who prepares your tax return, you are legally responsible for its accuracy, so if you pay someone to prepare your federal income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that person wisely. To help with the selection process, we’ve provided a few tips that should help you make an informed decision when choosing a tax professional.

  • Check the tax preparer’s credentials. Ensure the tax preparer meets your specific needs. Be sure that the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Anyone with a valid 2016 PTIN is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Further, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law.
  • Review the tax preparer’s history. What tax preparation training and experience does he or she have? Are they familiar with your type of business or personal financials? How does the preparer keep up with changes in tax laws?
  • Determine who will prepare your tax return and if they will work with your tax attorney. And, do this before you contract for the service. Avoid tax preparers who delegate work to someone with less experience or knowledge or those who consider no need to include your tax attorney’s input when preparing a return.
  • Ask if the tax preparer has a professional organization affiliation. The organization should provide or require its members to obtain continuing education and require them to adhere to an ethics code. Tax preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select.
  • Avoid tax preparers who provide guarantees, especially those who guarantee individuals a larger refund than other tax preparers. Given the same information, any qualified tax preparer should arrive at similar numbers. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts, and they’ll ask questions to determine your total revenues or income, deductions, tax credits and other items to reach the ultimate tax that you owe or refund amount due to you.
  • Select a tax preparer who can assist you if the IRS contacts you or audits your tax return. Ensure that your preparer will be available after you file your return – even after the due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
  • Understand your return. A good tax preparer should clearly answer any questions about your tax return.
  • Review all information before you sign your tax return. Ask questions if something is not clear, and make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return. Don’t use a preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.

For more information and to search the IRS-provided online directory for a qualified tax preparer with credentials and select qualifications, click here.

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