Q: Why should I use a professional tax preparer? Isn’t the online software just as good?
A: The IRS makes changes to rules and regulations throughout the year that could potentially affect future and past deductions. A professional tax preparer is required to remain current with these ongoing changes to the tax code and state policies that impact their clientele. Individual software is unable to get to know your story or unique situation. A tax professional is there to ask additional questions and involve you in the process. The goal is to legally reduce your tax liability and minimize penalties if you made a mistake. This appears simple on the surface but sometimes the answers to critical tax questions are not a straightforward, “yes” or “no.”
Q: How do I choose a preparer? So many people claim to be qualified.
A: These are 5 quick tips:
- Are they willing to sign on the dotted line? The law requires paid preparers to sign their clients’ returns and provide their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
- Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a preparer with specific qualifications. If working with a new preparer without additional credentials, be sure to ask for the name of the tax professional who will complete the quality review check.
- Ask about electronic-filing. The IRS requires any paid preparer who does more than 10 returns for clients to file electronically via the IRS’s e-file system.
- Review Before Signing! Before signing a tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. You are a part of the process and two sets of eyes are better than one. The preparer should also give you a copy of the completed tax return, not just a transcript.
- Never sign a blank tax return. If you are asked to sign a blank return, ask for your documents back and make a report using IRS form Form 14157. If you suspect a tax preparer filed or changed your return without consent, you should file Form 14157-A.