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How to Choose a Tax Preparer

Understanding the federal tax code can be a chore. For a lot of Americans, it’s easier to pay a professional tax preparer to keep things simple for them. Then again, choosing one can be a chore in itself. Though there could be tons of options out there, they’re hardly the same.

If you’ve never tried working with a tax advisor before, a little research is usually necessary. Below are tips to help you in your search:The following are pointers that can guide you as your search:Here are tips to get you started:

Qualifications

Before anything else, check if the tax preparer you’re considering has a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. You should know the different types of tax preparers as well, including the type of education or certification they are expected to have. Registered tax return preparers, for example, have to take an IRS test and finish 15 hours of continuing education on a yearly basis. They can represent you in the event that you are audited but not otherwise.

On the other hand, an enrolled agent can be your representative in type of tax issue. Enrolled agents should also pass an IRS exam and finish no less than 72 hours of continuing education with three-year intervals. A CPA or tax attorney will be affected by unique certification standards depending on your state’s law. Finally, you may want to look into whether or not the tax preparer belongs to any professional organizations. If anything, membership is a sign that they are dedicated to their profession.

Background

The IRS advises contacting the Better Business Bureau to know if your prospective tax preparer has any complaints to their name. As well, check if they have been subject to any type of disciplinary action in the past, and if their license is valid. The same type of information can be requested from your state accountancy board and state bar association if you’re working with an accountant or a lawyer. If your plan is to hire an enrolled agent, you should check with the IRS. Of course, word of mouth is still of value. Talk to people around you – friends and relatives, coworkers, maybe even neighbors – who might be able to give you a better picture of a certain tax preparer’s services.

Price

Even after finding someone who makes you feel comfortable sharing your financial details with them, don’t make any commitments until you’ve learned about their fees. The IRS also urges taxpayers to skip tax preparers who will charge you a percentage of your expected refund.

Availability

Finally, as most taxpayers know, tax prep providers begin to pop up everywhere as soon as tax season gets underway. Some are affiliated with reputable companies, but others magically disappear as the tax season closes, which can be a problem when you have questions or need to amend your return eventually. A tax preparer who is constantly around may be a bit more expensive, but they will be healthy for your peace of mind.

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