15 Ways To Know Your Tax Return Is in Good Hands

Now that tax season is here, it’s time to gather those wage and income statements and tax forms to file those income taxes. Small and large business owners, employees, and self-employed gig workers will probably be preparing to file a tax return. Some tax filers feel comfortable taking on that task, but others may seek the help of professional tax preparers. Finding a tax expert to handle your taxes properly can take time and effort. However, there are certain clues to look for to ease your mind that your tax return is in the right hands.

1. They Have the Right Credentials

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If the tax professional selected is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a tax lawyer, or an Enrolled Agent (EA), they possess the highest credentials a tax preparer can have. These experts are qualified to help clients plan and prepare for tax season and more complicated tax filings.

They can also advise on lowering future tax bills and help with financial planning. Moreover, they can represent you with the IRS in case of an audit or any other issue.

2. Professional Organization Recognition

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Before you hire a tax professional, check to see if they’re members of groups that recognize their credentials. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) can assist in finding a licensed CPA and identify ones in your area.

The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers lists professionals with specific qualifications and credentials, and the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) recognizes EAs.

3. The Tax Preparer is Open Year-Round

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Just because a tax professional is only open during tax season doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified. However, state tax agencies and the IRS send letters at all times of the year. If that’s the case, and you receive a letter from a tax collection agency, you’ll want your tax preparer to be available to help you navigate the issue.

4. They Give You a Price Quote

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Tax experts’ rates vary according to different factors, like the complexity of the return, whether other services, such as financial planning, and the type of professional hired. For example, a tax attorney will likely charge a higher fee than an EA. If they’re unwilling to quote you, look for someone who will.

5. They’re Experienced

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I have nothing against new tax preparers, but having an experienced professional handle your taxes is better, especially if they’re more complex than filing basic forms. A more experienced tax specialist likely has encountered various scenarios related to taxes and tax-related issues.

They’re better prepared to help their clients resolve them than a less experienced individual.

6. They Come Recommended

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Choosing the right tax expert for your specific needs may seem daunting, but a straightforward way to find one is to get referrals. Family members, friends, and colleagues are excellent resources to tap into. They’re not going to trust their most sensitive and important tax and income information to someone they don’t trust, so ask them who does their taxes.

7. Area of Expertise

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Tax planning and preparation isn’t one size fits all. There are many different domains of taxes and tax law, and many tax preparers specialize in one or more areas. It is important to hire a tax professional whose background meets your requirements.

8. Continuing Education

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State and federal tax laws undergo changes to their respective tax codes. Some of these adjustments occur every year. Tax professionals need to stay on top of all these alterations, which require them to undergo some continuing education, even though they have credentials. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’re actively engaged in staying on top of tax changes.

9. E-File is Offered

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Tax preparers paid for their services by more than ten clients must usually file those returns electronically. Verify that the selected tax preparer offers electronic filing (e-file) of federal tax returns, and request this as your preferred method of filing your taxes. It’s an easier, faster, and more verifiable tax filing method.

10. No Complaint History

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Once you’ve narrowed down a list of prospective tax-preparing specialists, check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if anyone filed complaints against them. Eliminate anyone with a history of complaints, and choose someone with a clean BBB record.

11. Flat Rate Charges

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A reputable tax preparer charges a flat fee based on the complexity of the documents. Don’t hire them if they try to charge you a sliding scale fee based on a percentage of your refund. This indicates that they may be up to something dishonest, and you should avoid them.

12. They Sign the Return

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The bottom of a tax form contains a space for the tax preparer to sign and include their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Signing the tax return indicates they stand behind the work they’ve done. They’re also legally required to sign the return, verifying their compliance with the law. In addition, a legitimate tax preparer will not have you sign blank tax forms.

13. They Think Proactively

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A proactive tax preparer provides year-round guidance on new tax laws and ways to reduce your tax liability before the next tax season. Having foresight shows that they’re doing what’s needed to stay on top of tax code changes and that they think of their client’s best interests.

14. Organizational Skills

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Preparing taxes, especially complex ones, requires attention to the smallest details. Excellent organizational skills are critical to this process, especially when the tax expert must review various forms of documentation. A tax preparer who is more organized and attentive to details reduces the chance of errors.

15. Frequent Communications

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Tax professionals and their clients must communicate regularly to develop a trusting business relationship and share important information. If your tax preparer frequently communicates with you verbally and in writing transparently, you’re in good hands.


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