Filing Your Taxes: Using a Tax Preparer

The decision to use a professional tax preparer is a matter of personal choice. People use tax preparers for a variety of reasons:

  • They have a complicated tax situation
  • They get frustrated or stressed out doing their taxes
  • They don't have time

Selecting a tax preparer is no different from choosing say, a mechanic or a dentist. There are a few common sense guidelines to follow:

  • Get referrals from friends
  • Check the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce to see if there have been any complaints lodged against the preparer
  • Ask for references, and contact them
  • Make sure that the preparer or company will be around after tax season ends. Just as you want to be sure that your mechanic is still in business in case anything goes wrong with your car after repair, your tax preparer should be there in case there is a mistake
  • Your tax preparer should carry liability insurance as well

The following is a list of questions the IRS recommends asking a tax preparer:

  • What tax services are offered?
  • Who will be preparing my tax return?
  • Do you offer additional services, like financial planning?
  • How many tax returns do you prepare each year?
  • Do you have references that I may see and follow up on?
  • What is your experience with audits? Will you still be around after the tax season? If I am audited, will the person who did my taxes handle it? What percentage of your clients have been audited?
  • Do you specialize in any tax areas?
  • How aggressive are you when it comes to finding ways to reduce my federal tax bill?
  • Have you ever been fined or penalized in regards to tax returns prepared and filed?
  • What is your educational background in taxes?
  • Do I pay you by the hour or flat fee?

Finally, after you've selected a preparer, make sure you have all of your records organized and accessible when you meet. It will make the process go more smoothly.

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