Tax filing season is here! Time to gather all your tax documents, hunker down and file your income tax returns before the deadline, April 15th. It’s a good idea to get started soon, especially if you think that you will need help from a tax preparer. Those folks (including me) are pretty darned busy this time of year.
When you are running against the tax deadline and you just can’t figure out how to file your return yourself, what can you do? Well, you can ask friends, hit the Internet or head to the local tax preparation office. But how can you feel confident that the tax preparer you find is qualified and can do what’s best for you (within the rules, that is)?
When “shopping” for a tax preparer, taxpayers should ask these three questions:
- How Do You Keep Up with Tax Law Changes?
Tax laws are constantly changing. Some changes are major, as we saw two years ago with the 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 to follow ethical and professional standards.
- How Do You Communicate with your Clients?
Does the tax preparer meet regularly with clients? Are meetings in person? 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.
It’s important to have a qualified and knowledgeable tax preparer that is up to date on the tax laws and is prepared to meet your needs. That starts with feeling confident and comfortable with the answers to these three questions. If you feel good about the answers, it’s a good sign that your tax preparation needs will be met. Still 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