It’s finally here, the week I’ve been looking forward to for months – Tax Summer Camp! Okay, it’s not really “camp”. It’s three days of tax updates and training at the IRS Tax Forum in Washington, DC. All of us campers will learn about tax trends, changes, and issues from the IRS and experienced tax professionals.
Attending the IRS Tax Forum is one way to keep up with what’s going on with income taxes, but it’s not the only way. What’s important is that every tax professional has the skills, education, and expertise to file complete and accurate income tax returns on behalf of clients.
Surprisingly, anyone with a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) can prepare a tax return. Being sure that a tax preparer actually knows what she or he is doing is important for many reasons, starting with the fact that taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return, no matter who prepared it.
Here are seven tax tips to make sure you select a qualified tax professional who keeps up with tax law changes by attending Tax Summer Camp, or by some other method:
- Ask about professional credentials recognized by the IRS, such as a CPA or Enrolled Agent. The IRS maintains an online directory of federal tax return preparers with their credentials and qualifications.
- Make certain your preparer has a PTIN and enters it on your return filed with the IRS.
- Inquire about the tax preparer’s education and training, and how she or he keeps up with tax law changes and IRS processes.
- Check the tax preparer’s history for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the IRS Directory.
- Ask about service fees and get a cost estimate in writing.Steer clear of preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund, or who want their fee paid by direct deposit from your refund. These are unethical practices prohibited by IRS regulations.
- Make sure the preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than ten clients must file returns electronically.
- Make sure the preparer is available all year, after tax season is over, in case you need her or him.
Getting tax preparation services you can depend starts with selecting a qualified tax professional who keeps up with tax law changes and issues. Whether the tax preparer went to Tax Summer Camp or not, following these seven tips will get you qualified tax help.