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Finding the Right Tax Preparer
If you want to hire a paid tax preparer, it is important that you pick a qualified professional. While someone else prepares your return, the content is still your responsibility, including any additional payments, interest or penalty that could result from a mistake. That’s why you have to be careful in choosing the person who will handle your tax documents.
Some states do not require tax preparers to carry a license, but it’s good to hire one who does and is certified. Before you select a particular tax preparer, be sure to ask the following questions:
> What formal tax training have you acquired?
> Are you a holder of any professional licenses or designations, such as accredited tax advisor (ATA), accredited tax preparer (ATP), enrolled agent (EA), certified public accountant (CPA), or registered accounting practitioner (RAP)?
> Do you enroll in continuing professional education courses every year?
> How long have you been preparing taxes for clients?
> Have you had a client with the same tax situation as mine?
> How much will you charge me and how do you determine your rates?
> Will you be able to help me any time of year if I run into problems?
> Are you authorized e-file returns, and are you going to represent me in an audit or collection matter when a situation arises?
> How do you guarantee your work?
> Can you give me some client references? (Don’t forget to check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.)
> Whose account does the refund go to – yours or mine? (The money must be sent to your account.)
Steer clear of those who “guarantee” results, claim to get you bigger refunds than other tax preparers, and collect a percentage of your refund as their fee. Select someone who will be around for you even after the return is filed, and one who will continue to be responsive to your needs. Keep in mind that e-filed returns are typically processed more quickly than returns which are mailed. Rather than depending on the preparer, check with the Treasury to know processing time frames.
It can never be stressed enough that you, as the taxpayer, will be responsible for everything that is on your return, whether or not you prepared it yourself. Don’t sign the document unless you have reviewed it thoroughly. See if all your personal information is accurate, like your Social Security number, address, types and sources of income, and so on.
Don’t sign a form that is blank, and never use pencil when signing. Tax preparers need to sign the return, fill in the parts on the document(s) and give you a copy of your own. Demand to get a copy, and make sure you keep it for future reference.
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