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How Do I Choose The Right Tax Preparer?

Many people prepare their own tax returns each year. God bless them! However, if you are not sure about your competence in the tax area or have never prepared a single return before, then you need to think about choosing the right tax professional to assist you.

Taxes can be complicated. If you own a home, a business, rental property, or have substantial taxable investments, other advanced issues may affect the preparation of your income tax return. Thus a tax professional, with appropriate educational training, accreditation, and experience, may be needed to assist you in interpreting the tax laws to your benefit. Your choice of a tax professional is crucial.

It is important to choose carefully and wisely when hiring someone to prepare your tax return. You are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return, not the preparer. Anyone can claim to be a tax preparer, even with little or no experience. And, in fact, many people do just that between January and April 15th. However, most tax return preparers are professional, honest, and provide excellent service to their clients. The following tips should assist you when choosing a tax preparer:

  • Choose a preparer who has a permanent office and will be around throughout the year in case there is a problem with your return. Many tax offices, including most major chains, close their doors after April 15th.
  • Ask about the preparer’s qualification. Tax professionals should be properly trained and remain abreast all changes to the tax laws. They should also be members of at least one professional trade association, which is an indication of their commitment to their work.
  • Make sure the preparer will sign your completed tax return and include their address and federal identification number. This is required by law.
  • Don’t work with a preparer who suggests that you outright lie, fudge numbers, or invent scenarios to reduce your tax obligations.
  • Be wary of any tax preparer who claims to know tax preparing techniques and deductions that no one else knows and guarantees you a refund no matter what your circumstances.
  • Understand that most reputable preparers will ask you a myriad of questions to determine your eligibility for various deductions and credits. By doing so, they have only your best interest in mind and are trying to help you avoid any potential audits, penalties or additional taxes being imposed by the IRS.
  • Ask about fees. Legitimate tax professionals base their fees upon the work to be done and never on the refund that you are getting back. Stay aware from the preparer who suggests that the fees will be assessed as a percentage of the refund you get back. This is illegal.
  • Finally, ask lots of questions of your tax preparer until you are comfortable that he/she is up to the task at hand and has your best interest at heart. If you are not comfortable, find another professional.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous tax preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients. While tax avoidance is completely legal and within your constitutional rights, tax evasion is both risky and a crime, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Always remember that, you, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for all information on your tax return – not the preparer. So, choose your tax preparer wisely. Your tax return is your most important annual financial statement.


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