Monday, January 12, 2009

Top 10 Tips for Selecting a Tax Preparer

Choosing a tax preparer may seem like an easy task, but if you do not choose carefully, you could end up losing money. If you select an untrained preparer you could miss important deductions and credits, or, on the flip side, they could get you in trouble with the IRS by taking advantage of too many deductions. To assure you are making a smart choice, I have compiled the following list of tips to help you select a quality tax preparer.

1. False Guarantees

If a tax preparer promises you a big refund before looking at your financial information then you should go running the opposite direction! No one is guaranteed a refund, and if someone promises otherwise, they are probably going to do something unscrupulous. Use you best instincts to differentiate from real professionals and those trying to use black hat tricks to get leads.

2. Are They Current?

As you can imagine, you need a lot of training to become a tax preparer. Unfortunately it does not stop there. Each tax season bring a set of newly expired tax laws as well dozens of new deductions, credits, and regulations. Most tax preparers will enroll in some sort of update training before each tax season, but not all. Make sure your tax preparer is up to date on all tax policies.

3. Note Availability

It is always a good idea to check your tax preparers’ year-round availability before signing any papers. While some tax preparation offices are open all year (including Roni Deutch Tax Center® locations), others are open only during the tax season. While this may not seem like a nuisance, you must remember you should keep track of your taxes all year, and you never know when an important tax-related question or concern may come up.

4. Quality is Priceless

Do not jump for a tax specialist just because they are the cheapest. Although tax preparation can get a bit pricey, choosing a tax prep specialist just because they have low rates is not a good idea at all. Odds are, deciding on a slightly more expensive but more highly trained professional will probably end up making up for the difference anyway.

5. Above & Beyond

On top of having a year-round specialist, it is also good to have one who will go above and beyond just preparing your return. If the IRS sends you a notice or query, will your tax preparer be able to help you solve the problem or at least recommend you to someone who can? Whenever you are looking for a tax preparer, you always want to know what type of audit protection or assistance they provide.

6. Other Businesses

If you are a business or small business owner, having a business-tax-savvy preparer is a must. There are separate deductions, credits, and guidelines for business owners. In order to take advantage of every business deduction you can and prevent from breaking any rules, you need a highly trained tax professional to help you with these sorts of tax returns. When interviewing a potential prepare, ask if they have other business clients and see if you can get any reviews from said clients in advance.

7. E-File is a Must

With modern technology, there is no reason to hire a tax preparer that does not file electronically. It is both faster and more efficient. Perhaps the best advantages of filing electronically is that your return is likely to come much faster, and as soon as your preparer files it, you have proof that it has been filed.

8. Check Reviews

If your tax preparer is well established, it should be no problem finding at least a few reviews on their services online. You can also ask friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who they chose to prepare their taxes. Some tax preparers even have a list of testimonials from previous clients available in their office or online.

9. Taxes Take Time

Unless you are filing a simple 1040 EZ, filing a tax return can be a long and strenuous process. If you are a small business owner and a tax preparer says they can get you in and out in 10 minutes, you probably are not getting the best service. It should take a couple of visits to get your taxes filed, depending on how much paperwork you have and how well you have kept track of everything throughout the year.

10. Questions Galore

Last but not least, your tax preparer should be eager and willing to know every financial aspect of your life. This means they will not only ask if you have children, but ask their ages, their education levels, whether they are your dependent, and so on. A good tax preparer will ask you dozens upon dozens of questions to get you the best quality of service, which you deserve.

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