Katie Marcum from KatieMarcum.com is back with us again! Today she’s talking about how to pick a tax professional.
Part 3: How to pick a tax preparer
Really this part of the series is good for anyone who files a tax return, not just those who are self employed. Picking the right tax preparer and the right tax preparation company is a very crucial part when you are preparing to file your return.
I’ve come up with a short list of the things to look for when shopping for a tax preparer.
1. Will someone be available during the year if you need them?
What if you come up with a question in July? Or you receive one of those dreadful IRS notifications that usually hit mid fall? Are you going to find an abandoned building that housed the tax preparation company that you used merely months ago with no indication of where they went?
The tax industry is a very big industry. Millions of temporary workers are hired from January to April. Thousands of offices across the country are opened only for those three months and sit empty the remainder of the year. Just because the person writing your tax return is temporary help, doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge and training necessary to do a wonderful job (any doubt, just ask!). BUT when you need someone after April 15th, are you going to be able to find the help you need?
When shopping for your tax preparer don’t be afraid to ask WHO will be available in the off season if you need help, and WHERE will you find this person. If you don’t like your answer than find another company that gives you a better one!
3. Who will be the person actually preparing your return?
Is that person you handed your documents to the one actually preparing your return, or has he hired an assistant to do the data entry? Maybe it makes no difference to you, but its good practice to meet the person handling your information.
4. What if something is wrong on the return?
Whether or not you hire someone to prepare your tax return, you are ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING on the return. If there is a mistake, and you owe more taxes because of it, the IRS does not reduce your penalties because you weren’t the one that actually prepared it. You should always review your return and ask any questions about what you don’t understand before you sign it. Your signature means that you agree with what is on the form.
With that said, if you are hiring a company to prepare your return for you, what system do they have in place for mistakes? The company is not required to pay any of your additional taxes, interest or penalties, but do they at least have the option to do so? Find out, its important!
5. Does the price of the work match the quality of the work?
We all know the old mantra, ‘you get what you pay for’. That’s especially true when it come to tax preparation. When shopping for a tax preparer, or tax preparation company, keep in mind what they will be charging you for their services.
You don’t necessarily need to find the lowest price, or the highest price. Its not 100% about the bottom line fee. Find out what is included in their price.
- Will they offer free tax advice during the year. If not, how much do they charge for additional advice?
- Are they going to charge you an additional fee to electronically file your tax return?
- Do their fees vary based on how much refund you receive? (This is illegal, actually so hopefully NOBODY is doing this)
- Is there an additional fee to receive a copy of your return? (The IRS requires companies to supply their clients with a copy of their tax return)
- If they calculate your return and you are unsatisfied with your results, are you obligated to pay for your return or a ‘sitting fee’?
The bottom line is this, ASK QUESTIONS! You are hiring this person or this company to do some very sensitive financial work for you. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the best fit for your situation.