Summer School for Tax Preparers

In the last few weeks of summer, many taxpayers are headed to the beach. But for nearly 11,000 tax preparers across the country, it’s time for Summer School, also known as the annual IRS Tax Forum. The IRS provides the Tax Forum every summer to help tax professionals keep up with tax law updates and issues that affect their clients.

Why does this matter to you? Taxpayers need to keep up with the income tax changes on their own or hire a tax preparer who does it on their clients’ behalf. Taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return, no matter who prepared it. Hiring a tax preparer who keeps up is essential, especially in years when there are multiple tax law changes (like now).

Feel confident that your tax return is prepared by a qualified tax preparer who keeps up with all the tax law changes by following these five tips:

  1. Ask about professional credentials, such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or an Enrolled Agent (EA). Credentialed return preparers are required to fulfill annual continuing education. The IRS maintains a Directory of Federal Return Preparers with their credentials and qualifications at https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf.
  2. Verify that the preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and enters it on your return that is electronically filed with the IRS. Tax preparers who charge a fee are required to have a PTIN and to file returns electronically or submit a reason for paper filing with the return.
  3. Inquire about the tax preparer’s education and training, and how she or he keeps up with tax law changes and IRS processes. Tax pros who are not a CPA or EA should still get annual tax updates to keep up their knowledge. 
  4. Ask about service fees and get a cost estimate in writing. Steer clear of tax preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund, or who want their fee paid by direct deposit from your refund. These are both unethical practices prohibited by IRS regulations.
  5. Make sure the tax preparer is available all year, after tax season is over, in case you need her or him. For example, notices can come from tax agencies any time of the year. Tax projections sometimes need refreshing before estimated tax payments are due again. 

Getting dependable tax services starts with selecting a qualified tax preparer who keeps up with tax law changes and issues. Whether that person went to Summer School for Tax Preparers or not, following the five tips above will help you to get qualified tax help. 

Need more? The IRS has it for you at https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional.

Finding a Tax Pro

Finding the right tax professional to “fix” your taxes is a lot like finding the right plumber or to fix your kitchen sink. There are many to choose from, but it’s a challenge to make sure you find someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, and dependable. With a tax pro, you also want someone with whom you feel comfortable confiding your financial details.

So, how do you find that elusive experienced and dependable confidant to prepare and file your income tax returns? Well, you can ask friends, hit the Internet, or head to the local tax preparation office. That can get you a few tax pros to interview. Yes, interview. Plan to interview two or three recommended tax pros to feel confident that she or he is qualified and that you feel comfortable interacting with her or him.

These three interview questions are a “must” for finding the right tax pro:

  • How Do You Keep Up with Tax Law Changes?

Tax laws are constantly changing. Some changes are major, as we saw three years ago with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It’s important to work with a tax preparer who keeps up with all those changes, so you don’t have to. A qualified tax preparer will describe attending conferences, webinars, or other methods to stay current.

  • What Experience and Credentials Do You Have?

Tax preparation is an unregulated industry where anyone can participate, so asking about years of experience, training and education is essential. Preparers with professional credentials, such as a CPA or Enrolled Agent (EA), are required to complete annual continuing education requirements and follow ethical and professional standards. 

  • How Do You Communicate with your Clients?

Does the tax preparer meet regularly with clients? Is she or he available to you if a tax-related question or issue comes up? Make sure you feel comfortable with the tax preparer’s style, manner, and process. If not, keep looking. You’ll be sharing a lot of personal information so you must be comfortable.

Plan to interview two or three tax pros referred by friends or online reviews to find a tax professional who is knowledgeable, experienced, and with whom you feel comfortable confiding your financial details. Need help getting started? The IRS has a website for you with tips and tools – https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional.