For most people, using a free service like TaxACT can be a useful and comprehensive way to file their taxes.
If you are dead set, however, on hiring a tax preparer for your taxes, the IRS has a few tips to follow to make sure you don’t hire someone who is inadequate. Here’s what to look for in a tax preparer:
- Find out what the service fees are before the return is prepared. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
- Only use a tax professional that signs your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records.
- Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
- Choose a tax preparer that will be around to answer questions after the return has been filed.
- Ask questions. Do you know anyone who has used the tax professional? Were they satisfied with the service they received?
- Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state’s board of accountancy for CPAs or the state’s bar association for attorneys. Find out if the preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and also holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
- Determine if the preparer’s credentials meet your needs. Does your state have licensing or registration requirements for paid preparers? Is he or she an Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant, or Attorney? If so, the preparer can represent taxpayers before the IRS on all matters – including audits, collections, and appeals. Other return preparers can represent taxpayers only in audits regarding a return signed as a preparer.
- Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions.