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How to Choose a Good Tax Preparer

If you choose to hire a paid tax preparer, it is essential that you find an experienced professional. Even if somebody else prepares your return, you are still accountable for the content and for any further payments, penalty and interest that could stem from a mistake.

You may be a resident of a state in which tax preparers have no need for a license. However, a lot of tax professionals are licensed and certified, being part of professional organizations that call for a particular level of education and provide continuing training. Incompetent tax preparers may fail to notice justifiable deductions and/or credits, which can make you pay more tax than you must. Services vary from one preparer to another, so you have to find one who provides the services you require.

Asking questions is key to confirming if you are hiring a professional with the appropriate skill level. Below are good questions to ask ahead of hiring the services of a tax preparer:

> What kind of recognized tax training do you have?

> Are you a holder of any professional licenses or designations, for example, accredited tax preparer (ATP), certified public accountant (CPA), or registered accounting practitioner (RAP)?

> Do you take regular professional education classes every year?

> How long have you been in this line of work?

> Have you ever prepared a tax return similar to what I need?

> How much do I have to pay you and how do you set your fee?

> Will you be available to assist me when I have problems later on?

> Do you provide e-filing service?

> Can you and are you willing to represent me in an any matter before the IRS or the state treasury if the situation calls for it?

> Can you give me a list of names of your past or current clients whom I can talk to about the quality of your work?

Consider checking with the Better Business Bureau in your area to learn about complaints against the preparer, if any.

> If the refund is to be direct deposited, will it end up in my account or yours? Your refund should always go to your account, period.

Stay away from those who say they can get bigger refunds than other preparers, or those who “promise” results, along with those who set their fees on a cut of your refund. Go with someone who will be available even after the return is filed and who is quick to respond to your needs. Keep in mind that e-filed returns are typically processed faster than returns that come through the mail. E-filed returns remain subject to assessment, and you have to rely on Treasury when it comes to the processing deadlines, not the preparer.

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