Tax season may only come once a year, but that due date always seems to come sooner than you expect. And, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to navigate the tax code and ensure that you are filing your taxes correctly and at maximum benefit to you. If you have any doubts or just don’t want to deal with the hassle, then it’s smart to just go ahead and hire a tax preparer.
Before you do that, however, you’ll want to keep in mind that not all tax preparers are created equally and that you need to be selective about the person that you hire. The wrong adviser can end up making things worse, not better. Fortunately, though, choosing a good, knowledgeable tax preparer is easy, if you know how to go about it.
First things first, you want to make sure that the person you are hiring or thinking of hiring is actually qualified to handle your taxes in the first place. All legitimate tax preparers must have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) that they should disclose to you without any problems. If a preparer doesn’t have or won’t disclose this number, steer clear.
You should also look for a tax preparer that has the necessary certifications within his chosen specialization area and that ideally belongs to a professional organization that holds its members to high ethical and educational standards.
The whole point of hiring a tax preparer in the first place is to try and save some money. Obviously, that’s not going to happen if your preparer is charging you an arm and a leg! Thus, find someone qualified but also someone who charges reasonable fees, typically no more than around $150 for a basic tax return.
Try and avoid preparers who make their money by taking a percentage of your income taxes since these preparers can sometimes be dishonest and may “fluff up” returns to get more profit, which could land you in some serious hot water!
Also, make sure that you know the fees AHEAD of time so that you don’t get trapped into paying unexpected fees.
As a final word of wisdom, bear in mind that the very best tax preparers are going to book fast, and the closer you get to tax season, the less likely it becomes that you’ll get the “best of the best” for filing your return.