When it comes to finding someone to do your taxes, you want a person you can trust. After all, you will share with that individual some of your most personal information.
During the 2014 tax season, more than half of all individual taxpayers chose a paid tax preparer when it came time to file their taxes. That’s more than 70 million people who paid for tax help.
This tax year promises to be a challenging one, with new forms and complications from the Affordable Care Act. So, if you’re looking for someone who can do your taxes, here are a few tips from the IRS and from an earlier Tax Lounge blog on how to choose a tax preparer.
- Ask around. If you’ve never hired a tax preparer before, ask family and friends for referrals. Find out who they choose and why. Be especially inquisitive when it comes to their likes and dislikes about their tax preparer. For example, if a friend can’t reach his tax preparer after tax season, that’s a problem.
- Check credentials. The IRS requires tax preparers to have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Check to see if your preparer is a registered tax preparer and has a valid PTIN, and make sure your preparer signs your return and includes his or her PTIN. Ask the tax preparer about tax preparation training he or she has received. You will want someone who is current on tax matters and understands changes to the tax code, especially those that pertain to the Affordable Care Act.
- Check availability. Sure tax season runs from January to April, but what if the IRS has questions about your tax return after tax season. You’ll want to be able to contact your tax preparer. Make sure you choose a preparer who will be available after you file your return. Ask about hours after tax season and be sure to leave with reliable contact information for your preparer.
- Ask about fees. Walk out if the tax preparer charges based on the amount of your anticipated refund. This is a red flag because the preparer’s motive may be to include deductions for which you are not eligible. The IRS has found that such institutions often cut corners or commit tax fraud. Don’t be confused by fees that accompany more complex returns. It is not uncommon for fees to adjust based on the complexity of your return.
- Go with your gut. Finally, you should feel comfortable with your tax preparer. A professional tax preparer will return your phone calls and gladly answer any questions. Be patient though because tax time is busy for them. A good tax preparer will tell you which forms you need to bring and inform you of deductions for which you qualify. You should never sign blank tax forms (or any forms for that matter). If you’re not getting good service, get out.
In the end, you are legally responsible for the information on your tax return, so make sure you choose a tax preparer wisely.