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Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer

Knowing the federal tax code can be a feat. For plenty of Americans, it’s easier to hire a professional tax preparer to avoid potential complications. Then again, choosing one can be a chore in itself. Though there could be tons of options out there, they’re hardly the same.

If you’ve never tried working with a tax advisor before, a little research is usually necessary. Below are tips to help you in your search:The following are pointers that can guide you as your search:Here are tips to get you started:

Qualifications

Before anything else, check if the tax preparer you’re considering has a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. You should know the different types of tax preparers as well, including the type of education or certification they are expected to have. Registered tax return preparers, for example, have to take an IRS test and finish 15 hours of continuing education on a yearly basis. During an audit is the only time a registered tax return preparer can represent you.

On the other hand, an enrolled agent will be able to represent you in all tax issues. Enrolled agents must pass an IRS exam too, on top of completing 72 + hours of ongoing education at three-year intervals. A CPA or tax lawyer follows a different set of certification standards depending on the laws in your state. Finally, you may want to look into whether or not the tax preparer belongs to any professional organizations. If anything, membership is a sign that they are dedicated to their profession.

History

The IRS advises contacting the Better Business Bureau to know if your prospective tax preparer has any complaints to their name. As well, check if they have been subject to any type of disciplinary action in the past, and if their license is valid. Similarly, your state bar association and state accountancy board will be able to give you this kind of information for attorneys and accountants. If you’re thinking of hiring an enrolled agent, you’ll have to contact the IRS. Of course, word of mouth is still of value. Talk to people around you – friends and relatives, coworkers, maybe even neighbors – who might be able to give you a better picture of a certain tax preparer’s services.

Cost

Even after finding a tax preparer with whom you are very comfortable sharing your financial details with, refrain from making commitments until you’re sure about their charges. As well, the IRS advises taxpayers to stay away from tax preparers whose fees are calculated as a percentage of the taxpayer’s expected refund.

Availability

Finally, as most taxpayers know, tax prep providers begin to pop up everywhere as soon as tax season gets underway. Though some are affiliated with established companies, others disappear by the end of the tax season, possibly causing issues when you need to amend your return for some reason or you just want to ask questions. Hiring a tax preparer who is regularly available may be pricier by a bit, but it buys you peace of mind.

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