Advice for Choosing a Tax Return Preparer

Taxpayers who pay someone to do their taxes should choose a preparer wisely. If you choose to use a paid tax preparer, it is important that you find a qualified tax professional. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for everything on their return even when it's prepared by someone else.

The most 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. By doing so, they have your best interest in mind and are trying to help you avoid penalties, interest, or additional taxes that could result from later IRS contacts.

While most tax return preparers are professional and honest, taxpayers can use the following tips to choose a preparer who will offer the best service for their tax preparation needs.

* Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers, or those who quarantine results or base fees on a percentage of the amount of the refund.

* Plan Ahead. Choose a preparer you will be able to contact after the return is filed and one who will be responsive to your needs.

* Get References. Ask questions and get references from clients who have used the tax professional before. Were they satisfied with the services received?

* Research. Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state's board of accountancy for CPAs or the state's bar association for attorneys. Find out if the preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and also holds them accountable to a code or ethics.

* Determine if the preparer's credentials meet your needs. Are they an Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant or Tax Attorney? Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection actions and appeals. Other return preparers may represent taxpayers only in a audits regarding a return they signed as a preparer.