Even though tax consultants have access to information about your most personal facts, such as your bank accounts, marriage, children — even your Social Security number — many people don’t.
Aside from evaluating a tax preparer, there are a few other things to consider when looking for tax assistance. Here are seven pointers to help you pick the finest tax preparer or counselor for your needs.
1. Request a Preparer Tax Identification Number from the IRS (PTIN)
The IRS requires a PTIN for anybody who prepares or aids in preparing federal tax returns for a fee. Volunteer tax preparers do not need PTINs, as stated in the phrase “for pay.” Make sure your tax preparer includes their PTIN number on your return, as the IRS requires.
2. A CPA, a legal license, or an enrolled agent certification may be required
Get a qualified preparer – someone who is also a CPA, certified public accountant, licensed attorney, EA, enrolled agent or has completed the IRS’s Annual Filing Season program. Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor and Accredited Tax Preparer are two programs that can help preparers achieve the Annual Filing Season Program requirement. These credentials require various levels of study, examinations, and ongoing education.
3. Look for high-ranking buddies.
A tax advisor’s membership in a professional organization such as the National Association of Enrolled Agents, National Association of Tax Professionals, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or the American Academy of Attorney CPAs is always a plus, as most have codes of ethics, professional conduct requirements, and various certification programs. If you already have a financial counselor, they might be able to refer you to a tax expert.
4. Consider hiring a tax expert who does not e-file.
Any paid preparer who prepares more than ten returns for clients must submit their returns through the IRS’s e-file system. If your tax preparer does not offer e-filing, it may indicate that they aren’t doing as much work as you believe.
5. Ascertain that they will sign on the dotted line.
According to the legislation, paid preparers must sign and submit their clients’ returns and their PTINs. Never sign a blank tax form because the preparer could scrawl anything they want on it, including their bank account number, which they could use to steal your refund.
6. Check to see if your advisor is on your side.
On audits, payments and collection difficulties, and appeals, enrolled agents, CPAs, and attorneys with PTINs can represent you in front of the IRS. Even if they prepared your return, preparers who have PTINs could not do so. Only in restricted instances can preparers who have completed the Annual Filing Season Program serve clients.
It’s also important to be available. The most significant tax preparers will take your call, react to your email, or invite you for a visit even after the filing season is done and your tax return is history.
You could seek assistance online if meeting with an advisor in person isn’t necessary.