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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What to look for in a Tax Professional

The IRS recently published a list of things you should look for in a tax professional. They are a great reminder to anyone looking for a professional to prepare their tax return.

*All quotes below are taken from the article referenced above.

1. Check the preparers qualifications. “New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. “

I have a PTIN, a preparer tax identification number, a requirement of all paid tax return preparers. I am also a member of both the NAEA (National Association of Enrolled Agents) and the CSEA (California Society of Enrolled Agents). I also have a Professional Financial Planning Designation award by UCLA. I take continuing ed classes yearly to maintain my license.

2. Check the preparers history for any questionable activities. “Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.”

Check with the Better Business Bureau or IRS, ask me for referrals or check out my reviews on yelp.

3. Ask about service fees. “Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.”

In general you should avoid preparers whose fees are based on the percentage of the refund you receive. My fees are based on services provided, the amount of work involved in your return and hourly, depending on your situation, NEVER on the refund you receive.

4. Ask if they offer electronic filing. “Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return.”

I prepare all my returns electronically using my PTIN number unless the client requests a paper return or the situation warrants it.

5. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. “Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.”

The core of my business if providing quality service to my clients, just ask them! I am always available by phone or appointment to answer your questions or explain parts of your return you don’t understand until you are satisfied.

6. Provide all records and receipts needed in order to prepare your return. “Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.”

I never complete a tax return without all the required documentation. I like my job and intend to keep it. Therefore I do not use illegal means or cut corners when preparing a return for a client. If I don’t have something I need, I’ll ask for it and will not file until I receive what is necessary to complete your return appropriately.

7. Never sign a blank return. “Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.”

Frankly any tax preparer who would ask a client to do this is insane. I always prepare a completed and professional prepared return before asking the client to sign. All my clients have the opportunity to review this return both on their own and with me, to ask any questions and clarify any points in the return. You sign when you are confident to do so.

8. Review the entire return before signing it. “Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.”

See question 7 above!

9. Ensure the preparer signs the return with his/her PTIN number. “ A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.”

I sign every one of my returns, including my daughters return, with my name and PTIN number. You receive a copy of your return, both to review it before signing as well as to keep for your own records.

10. Report abusive preparers to the IRS. “You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. Download Form 14157 from www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).”

I often have clients who have come to me from previous tax preparers who have done a bad job or caused problems for them with the IRS. There is nothing I enjoy more than helping these clients get out of any mess they are in and giving them the reassurance that with me, there will be no problems or issues. I haven’t been in business for 28 years for nothing. I care about my clients and strive to give them the best service and the best work. If you have been a victim of an unprofessional tax preparer I encourage you to take the advice of the IRS and report them.

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