When getting ready to file your taxes, you may decide to file on your own, or you may choose to enlist the help of a professional tax preparer. While it is certainly possible to file by yourself, a tax professional can provide several added benefits.
A simple oversight can be easy to miss, which may impact your return amount. Two sets of eyes mean that there are fewer chances of mistakes. A tax professional can also assist with knowledge gained from years of experience and continuing education of tax laws regarding certain credits or write-offs you may qualify for.
If you decide to work with a professional, there are a few key things to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer.
Avoid pop-up tax preparers
Starting in mid-January, big chain preparers take up temporary residence in commercial areas and other vacant buildings. Some of these places may allow walk-ins. In the months leading up to tax day, these offices can become quite busy, moving through clients quickly. High-volume tax preparers that process many clients every day are more prone to mistakes or oversights.
Pop-up preparers also tend to hire seasonal employees who are not accessible after they have completed your return. Contacting a branch after tax season for any follow-up questions will likely result in speaking to someone new who will have to take the time to review your filing to answer any questions.
Developing a relationship with an experienced tax professional who is available all year and is happy to take time to understand your specific situation can be of great value.
Get referrals from similar filers
When looking for a tax preparer, a good place to start is referrals from family, friends, and business associates. If you’re a small business owner, talk to other small business owners. If you have an offshore account, talk to other offshore account holders.
See who they recommend and why they like them. It is also important to know if there are any preparers to avoid. It’s a good idea to get the names of two or three preparers before calling around.
Not every preparer is qualified or experienced enough to process all types of tax returns. The IRS maintains a directory of federal tax preparers who have certain qualifications and credentials. It’s important to choose someone who has experience with your type of tax situation.
Ask a lot of questions
Call the preparers you have received recommendations for, and don’t be shy about asking questions before scheduling an appointment. Is their pricing transparent? How long do they allow for appointments? What is their procedure for audits? Is someone available all year to answer questions? What are their off-season hours?
Choosing the right tax preparer for your finances may take some patience, but the benefits of having the right, experienced professional for your specific needs will be worth the time.