Choosing a Tax Preparer

While every new tax law promises tax simplification, in fact the tax laws just seem to grow more and more complex with every passing year. With the endless maze of tax laws, rules and regulations, it has never been more important to find a qualified tax preparer. A good tax preparer can save the taxpayer hundreds or even thousands of dollars by finding hidden deductions or little known tax breaks.

These are some of the best tips for finding a tax preparer you can rely on:

  1. Ask yourself if you are really qualified to do your own taxes. While simple tax returns can easily be prepared by the taxpayer, either on his or her own or using one of the popular software programs, more complicated returns usually require the advice of a tax professional. While doing your own taxes can save you money up front, it may be costing you money in the long term in the form of missed deductions and tax breaks.
  2. Be sure to ask any potential tax preparer what his or her qualifications are. While there are a huge number of tax preparers, there are relatively few with the experience to handle truly complex returns. Be sure to ask the preparer where he or she was trained, and which types of certifications he or she currently holds.
  3. Ask the preparer how long he or she has been in the tax preparation business. The tax business is of course seasonal, and many tax preparers simply take a one or two week course and start preparing tax returns. While this simple training is fine for simple returns, more experience, and in depth tax law knowledge, will be needed for more complicated tax returns or tax law questions.
  4. Determine the level of relevant tax preparation experience the tax preparer has. Be sure to ask if the prepare is willing to thoroughly analyze your own tax situation and provide advice on how best to structure your taxes.
  5. Many tax preparers are simply trained to fill out the standard 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ, and take the standard deduction. The standard deduction could cost you a lot of money in tax overpayment, as you may be able to deduct more by itemizing.
  6. Be sure to ask about the current workload of the tax preparer. Many tax preparers are so overwhelmed at tax season that they are unable to provide enough time to complicated returns. A quality tax preparer will take pains not to accept more work than he or she can handle.
  7. Finally, be sure to ask the tax preparer for references. A quality tax preparer should have a list of long standing clients, and these clients should be able to provide honest and impartial feedback on the quality of the work being done.

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