Tax season, sweet tax season…thankfully, it only comes once a year!
Despite the potential for refunds, rarely is tax season greeted with enthusiasm or excitement. Tax laws, tax forms, and the IRS in general are, for many people, sources of stress. Many people and businesses simply opt to hire a professional tax service to save themselves the fear of filing incorrectly, possible penalties, and just the overall headache of tax season.
Tax professionals tend to be available year-round, not just during tax season, and can help with any questions or situations that may arise throughout the year, which could potentially save time and money down the road.
What should one look for in hiring a tax professional?
- Reputability. Not everyone with “CPA” after their name is necessarily legit. Make sure you do some research before hiring just any tax professional. For example, find out if they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). According to Forbes, if a tax professional doesn’t have a current PTIN, they’re not actually allowed to do your taxes. Definitely something to be aware of! Be sure to ask for referrals as well from trusted people you know who use tax professionals, or ask for a list of client testimonials. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau or with your state’s licensing board to see if there have been any complaints issued on a particular tax professional.
- Cost. Some tax professionals charge hourly, some charge per form, and some even charge for phone calls. Different professionals charge differently, so just make sure you know exactly what you’re being charged for up front (or what you may be charged for). Get it in writing if you can. Also, if any tax professional charges based on the size of your refund, that is a very bad sign – just say NO!
- Contact Information. As already mentioned, many tax professionals are available all year. Once tax season is over (or even before it begins), you may have questions or concerns. Make sure you know how to contact your preparer if you do run into problems throughout the year.
- Representation. Mistakes sometimes happen. Should you ever be audited, find out if the tax professional could or would represent you in court. Find out how they’ve handled those situations in the past, and how they would in the future. It’s also important to know what kind of tax professional you’re hiring when it comes to this question. Kelly Philips Erb of Forbes.com says that “attorneys, CPAs, and Enrolled Agents are the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights, meaning they can represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals in front of the IRS.” Hopefully, this never happens, but it’s good to be aware ahead of time.
- Familiarity. What kinds of tax forms is your tax professional familiar with? Not only are there several different kinds of tax forms, but also several situations, scenarios, and laws. Make sure your tax professional is familiar with your specific needs and circumstances.
When looking for a tax professional, there are several things to consider, several options, and several great preparers and preparation agencies out there. Be slow and steady in choosing the right one for your home or business.