A 10-Point Plan for Agents (Without Being Overwhelmed)

How to Choose a Tax Preparer

Understanding the federal tax code can be a humongous task. For a lot of Americans, it’s easier to pay a professional tax preparer to keep things simple for them. Then again, picking the right one can be challenging on its own. Though there could be tons of options out there, they’re hardly the same.

If you’ve never tried working with a tax advisor before, a little research is usually necessary. Below are tips to help you in your search:The following are pointers that can guide you as your search:Here are tips to get you started:

Qualifications

First and foremost, hire a tax preparer with a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. You should know the different types of tax preparers as well, including the type of education or certification they are expected to have. For example, registered tax return professionals should pass an IRS exam as well as complete 15 hours of continuing coursework year after year. During an audit is the only time a registered tax return preparer can represent you.

On the other hand, an enrolled agent will be able to represent you in all tax issues. Enrolled agents should also pass an IRS exam and finish no less than 72 hours of continuing education with three-year intervals. A CPA or tax attorney will be bound by different certification standards as per your state’s law. Finally, you may want to look into whether or not the tax preparer belongs to any professional organizations. If anything, membership demonstrates the level of commitment they have to their profession.

Background

The IRS advises contacting the Better Business Bureau to know if your prospective tax preparer has any complaints to their name. Also ascertain whether they’ve been subject to any disciplinary measures and if their license is updated or valid. In the same manner, your state accountancy board and state bar association can offer you equivalent information pertaining to accountants and lawyers. If you’re thinking of hiring an enrolled agent, you’ll have to contact the IRS. Of course, word of mouth is always invaluable. Ask friends, relatives or coworkers who have used a certain tax preparer to know more about the quality of their services.

Fees

Even after finding a tax preparer with whom you are very comfortable sharing your financial details with, refrain from making commitments until you’re sure about their charges. The IRS advises taxpayers to avoid tax preparers who set their fees as a percentage of your refund.

Availability

Finally, as most taxpayers know, tax prep providers begin to pop up everywhere as soon as tax season gets underway. Some are affiliated with reputable companies, but others magically disappear as the tax season closes, which can be a problem when you have questions or need to amend your return eventually. Hiring a tax preparer who is always available may cost you a bit more, but it’s good for your peace of mind.

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