Last week, I joined 2,300 other tax professionals at what I lovingly call Summer Tax Camp. Okay, it’s not really “camp”. It’s the IRS Tax Forum, three days of tax updates and training on more than a dozen topics. All of us “campers” learned about tax regulation updates and issues from IRS representatives and experienced tax professionals.
All tax professionals need to keep up with the latest income tax changes and new requirements, but not all of them can get to an IRS Tax Forum. Somehow, they need to make sure that they have the skills, education, and expertise to file complete and accurate income tax returns on behalf of their clients.
Knowing that your tax professional 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. How can you feel confident that you’re in good hands?
Follow these five tips to select a qualified tax professional who keeps up with tax law changes, either by attending Summer Tax Camp or some other method:
- Ask about professional credentials recognized by the IRS, such as a CPA or Enrolled Agent. The IRS maintains a Directory of Federal Return Preparers with their credentials and qualifications at https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf.
- 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 returns prepared by a tax professional for a fee are required to be filed electronically.
- Inquire about the tax professional’s education and training, and how she or he keeps up with tax law changes and IRS processes. Understanding IRS processes is just as important as knowing how to apply the tax rules.
- 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 unethical practices prohibited by IRS regulations.
- Make sure the tax professional 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 preparation services starts with selecting a qualified tax professional who keeps up with tax law changes and issues. Whether the tax professional went to Summer Tax Camp or not, following my five tips will get you qualified tax help. Need more? The IRS has it for you at https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional.