While online tools have made it easier than ever before to prepare your own tax return, there’s certainly no shame in seeking out a tax professional if you ever feel like you’re in over your head. Just remember that you are legally responsible for everything on your tax return, even if you pay someone else to prepare it for you, so choose wisely.
Here are five tips that can help you find a quality tax expert:
Confirm their qualifications: Seek out licensed tax professionals who have received advanced training and specialize in the area you need help. To confirm an individual’s licensure status and check for any disciplinary actions, consult the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents, the state bar associations for attorneys, and the state boards of accountancy for CPAs.
Check out their history: Search for reviews online at a site like Teaspiller.com and consult the Better Business Bureau to find out if a tax professional has a questionable track record.
Compare rates and fees: National tax franchises offer fast tax help at affordable prices, but many local CPAs and EAs charge only slightly higher fees and offer more personalized services. Some tax professionals charge by the hour or by the number of forms they must complete, while others offer their services at a flat rate. Avoid professionals who base their fees on a percentage of your refund.
Ask about guarantees: Look for tax professionals who are willing to amend any tax prep mistakes at no additional cost. While the “enhanced guarantees” sold by franchises might give you peace of mind, you’re probably better off working with a tax professional who will go to bat for you with the IRS in the event of an audit.
Review your return: Ask questions and make sure that you understand everything on your return before signing it. Never sign a blank return and avoid tax professionals who ask you to do so.
More about Teaspiller: With more than 20,000 accountants on their site, Teaspiller makes it easy to get tax and accounting advice, and find and work with quality financial professionals all online.
You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 3949-A, Information Referral or by sending a letter to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Download Form 3949-A from http://www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).