Referrals are Always an Excellent Place to Begin
To gain advantages from working with a tax accountant, you do not necessarily need to be affluent or the owner of a firm.
It’s possible that completing your own taxes is too stressful or difficult for you, or that you’re facing an issue like having to file back taxes, paying off a tax debt, or defending yourself against an audit by the IRS. If this is the case, you might consider hiring a tax professional.
Finding the proper accountant doesn’t have to be difficult if you know the appropriate steps to take, but you do need to make sure that you pick the right one for your requirements before you start the search.
When it comes to choosing the correct accountant to meet your requirements, asking for referrals can be a good way to increase your chances of success.
If they do not have a preparer tax identification number, it is against the law for anyone to collect payment from you for doing your taxes (PTIN).
Enrolled agents, certified public accountants (CPAs), and tax attorneys are all examples of valid types of tax professionals.
Before you go on your first formal visit, talk to the tax professional about your circumstances and ask them any questions you have in a private meeting that you both attend together.
How to Find a Good Accountant for Your Taxes
While some accountants are well-versed in a variety of topics, others have developed a particular area of expertise. If you are the target of an audit, you should avoid hiring someone who has never managed an audit before.
On the other hand, if you are looking at tax-advantaged savings choices for your child’s education, you probably do not need the assistance of an audit expert.
When it comes to finding someone who is a good match for what you need, asking for referrals can be a good way to increase your chances of success. Inquire with business proprietors, financial consultants, and attorneys, but also consult with members of your own family and circle of friends. Since the majority of people are required to submit taxes, you should have little trouble finding a large number of names.
Describe the circumstances surrounding your need for an accountant as well as the tasks you anticipate the accountant performing on your behalf. People will be better able to point you in the right direction as a result of this.
If there is anything unusual about your circumstance, do not be afraid to call the company or the accountant to find out if they have the expertise to handle your taxes. Do not hesitate to do so.
Investigate the Authenticity of the Accountant
Be skeptical of an accountant who assures you right off the bat that you will receive a sizable return, especially before they have even taken the time to examine your unique financial circumstances. The same is true for anybody who tells you that you can deduct an unreasonable amount of expenses before really talking to you about your situation.
It is against the law for anyone to make money from you in exchange for filing your taxes unless they have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The number needs to be included on any tax return that they submit on your behalf. If you don’t see one, you should be suspicious since something might be wrong.
In the event that it is essential, you can pull the plug. Even if you’re already halfway through the process and the time for filing your taxes is drawing near, you shouldn’t let the fact that you aren’t happy or comfortable with the service you’re receiving discourage you from looking into other options or switching accountants.
You can always make a request for an extension of time to file your return by submitting IRS Form 4868 instead of your Form 1040. This will give you more time to choose an accountant who is a good fit for your needs.
Alternatives to Tax Preparers
If you merely want to submit a tax return that is very simple, retail tax franchises like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty Tax Service can provide you with knowledgeable assistance in doing so. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and Enrolled Agents (EAs) have been known to find employment in these types of offices from time to time.
If you decide to use one of these services, you should inquire about the possibility of meeting with a certified public accountant, an enrolled agent, or an experienced tax preparer. You might expect to spend the same amount, but you will have the opportunity to collaborate with a more experienced professional.
Different Categories of Tax Advisors
Enrolled agents, often known as EAs, have the highest level of certification that can be obtained from the IRS. They have successfully completed the exhaustive examinations and verifications of their backgrounds that were carried out by the IRS. The examination is broken up into three parts.
Every three years, all EAs have to meet the requirements for continuing education, but some EAs are accepted without having to take the test because they have worked for the IRS.
EAs frequently develop expertise in a particular tax field, making them the ideal choice for addressing difficult tax circumstances. If you are facing an audit or collection action from the IRS, they are able to act as your representative before the agency.
Accountants with the Certified Public designation
Certified public accountants (CPAs) are professionals who have successfully completed the demanding Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have been granted a license to practice accountancy by the board of accountancy in the state in which they operate.
They have earned degrees in accounting from an accredited university or college, and in order to maintain their licenses, they must maintain a specific level of moral rectitude and professional experience.
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) frequently specialize in topics that are unique to accounting. Although many CPAs do deal with tax matters, some have chosen to focus their careers on tax accounting. If you’re dealing with an audit or collection from the IRS, a certified public accountant (CPA) can also represent you there.
Tax attorneys are licensed by state courts and the bar associations of the states in which they practice. They are lawyers who specialize in tax law. In addition to the required Juris doctor degree, they often also have a master of law in taxation.
Legal concerns of a sophisticated nature, such as the preparation of estate tax returns or the presentation of your case before the United States Tax Court, are best handled by attorneys. In addition to that, they are required to participate in ongoing education.
You Really Do Need to Conduct an Interview
You don’t want to divulge private information to a person you haven’t met, so before you go on your first official visit, make an appointment with the professional to have a conversation about your predicament and to ask some questions.
Even if you have to have this conversation over the phone, you should make this arrangement. Ask for references just as you would from anybody else you were considering hiring, and then follow up with those references to verify the information you were given.
Remember that some people won’t feel comfortable talking to you, and try to keep things as simple as you can. Ask basic questions like, “Are you happy with the services they give you?” and “Have you ever had a problem with them?”
If you stop talking after you ask the question and let the other person say whatever is on their mind, the answers to these questions can teach you a lot, especially if you stop talking after you ask the question.
Questions to Ask
You may increase the likelihood of finding someone who is knowledgeable and dependable by making sure you ask the appropriate questions. The following are some potential avenues of inquiry:
What licenses or distinctions do you have?
How long have you been working in the field of taxation?
In what areas of tax law do you have particular expertise?
Do you ever hire outside help for any of your projects, or do you and/or your employees handle everything yourself?
How much time do you anticipate it will take you to finish preparing my tax return?
How much do your services cost? Are you able to negotiate them? Is it possible to get that in writing?
Do you think that the amount of tax that I pay is appropriate, excessive, or some combination of the three?
Every customer of an accounting firm must get in writing an explanation of the firm’s privacy practices, as this is a legal requirement. If you are not given a copy, feel free to request one.
A Few Additional Safety Measures
After the initial interview, you should follow up with a quick background check. You might also try searching for the professional’s name on social media platforms. Find out what is stated about them not only on their own website but also on the websites of others.
Get in touch with the board of accountancy in your state if you want to check the standing of a CPA’s license or learn whether or not the accountant has ever been subjected to any kind of disciplinary action.
You have the option to inquire with the Office of Professional Responsibility of the IRS on whether or not an EA has ever been reprimanded or punished in any other way. You should also consider contacting your community’s chamber of commerce for more information.
Also, remember that you are ultimately responsible for making sure that the information on your tax return is correct, not your accountant.