The IRS Gives Helpful Tips for Choosing a Tax Professional

The IRS, as we previously noted, now has a YouTube channel. Here’s their latest video on choosing a tax professional:

You can also read their suggestions in this article::

  • Check the person’s qualifications. Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics. New regulations effective in 2011 require all paid tax return preparers including attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number.
  • Check the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.
  • Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
  • Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
  • Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
  • Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
  • Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
  • Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

Now, Joe Kristan has had an annual list of some other things you should look out for. These have included in the past such gems as “Make sure the preparer is accessable outside of prison visiting hours. Self-explanatory.” I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for 2012.

On a serious note, every paid tax preparer is required to sign the return and put down his or her PTIN on the return. If your preparer doesn’t, David Williams is absolutely right: Run, don’t walk, out of that office and find someone else.

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