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Finding the Right Tax Preparer

If you choose to employ a paid tax preparer, it is vital that you find a practiced professional. Even if somebody else prepares your return, you are still liable for the content and for any added payments, interest and penalty that can arise from an inaccuracy.

You may reside in a state where tax preparers don’t need to be licensed. However, various tax professionals are licensed and certified, belonging to professional organizations that demand a specific level of education and provide continuous training. Untrained tax preparers may neglect valid deductions and/or credits, which may lead to you paying more tax than you are supposed to. Services differ from one preparer to the next, so you would like to find someone who offers the exact services you need.

Asking questions is key to confirming if you are hiring a professional with the appropriate skill level. Here are recommended questions to ask before you decide to choose a tax preparer:

> What type of official tax training do you have?

> Are you a holder of any professional licenses or designations, for example, accredited tax preparer (ATP), certified public accountant (CPA), or registered accounting practitioner (RAP)?

> Do you take ongoing professional education classes yearly?

> How long have you been working as a tax professional?

> Have you ever prepared a tax return that is relevant to my tax situation?

> How much do I have to pay you and how do you set your fee?

> Will you be available to assist me when I have problems later on?

> Do you do e-filing?

> Are you authorized and will you be able to represent me with the IRS or the state treasury if necessary?

> Can you give me names of references I can call and speak to about the quality of your work?

Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area to know if there are or were complaints against the preparer you’re considering.

> If the refund is to be direct deposited, will it end up in my account or yours? Your refund must always be forwarded to your account, end of story.

Steer clear of those who maintain they can get hold of larger refunds for you than other preparers, those who “promise” results, and those who want to be paid a percentage your refund. Select someone you can get to after the return has been filed and is receptive to your needs. Bear in mind that e-filed returns are generally processed more quickly than mailed returns. E-filed returns remain subject to assessment, and you have to rely on Treasury when it comes to the processing deadlines, not the preparer.