If you need help preparing your tax return, choose a tax preparer wisely. As a taxpayer, you are legally responsible for everything reported on your tax return; whether you prepare it yourself or have someone else prepare it for you.
When selecting an individual or company to prepare your taxes, be sure to:
- Check the person or company’s qualifications.
(Beginning in 2014, only four types of preparers will be authorized to prepare individual returns for compensation: Enrolled Agents, Registered Tax Return Preparers, Certified Public Accountants and Attorneys. Inquire about your preparer’s professional status.)
- Check the preparer’s history. How long have they been preparing taxes? Do they have experience in your particular circumstances? Are they supervised by a more experienced tax preparer?
- Ask about their service fees. Do they have a fixed fee, charge by the form or charge by the hour. Do they separately charge for incidental expenses such as e-filing or supplying a hard copy of your tax return. Be particularly aware of charging by the hour or form as costs can add up quite quickly even for relatively simple tax returns.
- Make sure they are accessible after the April due date in case you have a question about your return. This is also important if the IRS examines your return as you are more likely to get a satisfactory conclusion to the IRS examination if you are able to get assistance from the original preparer of the return.
The preparer you choose should:
- Ask you to provide all receipts and records needed to prepare your return.
- Not ask you to direct any part of your refund to an account that is not in your or your spouse’s name.
- Never ask you to sign a blank return.
- Allow you to review the completed return, including all schedules and attachments, and explain it all to you before you sign it. Remember you are responsible for the return so if you don’t understand something on it, ask before signing.
- Sign the return and include their preparer tax identification number (PTIN) and provide you a copy. If the tax preparer will not supply their PTIN or sign the tax return do not file the return with them and choose a different preparer.
Planning for Tax Time
- Being organized and planning ahead can save time, money and headaches at tax time. Start gathering your records and exploring your options now. You’ll have more time when you’re not up against a deadline or anxious for your refund.
- Each household’s financial circumstances are different so it’s important to fully consider your specific situation and goals before making large financial decisions. Remember even some legitimate returns may require review and take longer so don’t count on getting your refund by a certain date to pay for something important. This is particularly true of tax returns with large refunds from claims such as Earned Income Tax Credit.
Disclaimer – This article does not constitute personal tax advice to the reader and is only offering general information. You should seek professional advice for your own situation as the most appropriate tax planning depends on your personal and unique circumstances.