If you are looking for assistance with tax returns or other financial records and preparations, a professional may be necessary. The best method of research to locate a competent professional is to simply ask for referrals. If people you trust have successfully worked with an individual, you can have much more confidence in your choice than in someone selected from an advertisement or a directory.
There are a variety of questions that you should ask before agreeing to work with a particular professional. Request and verify information on education, certification, and work history. Find out exactly who will be handling your work to prevent it from being sourced out to someone other than your initial choice. Learn what work will be performed and what procedures will be in effect if further work, as in the case of an audit, is eventually required. Know exactly how much and when you will be paying for the work that you have requested. You will want to meet with any professional you're considering face-to-face before making your decision. Some even offer a free consultation, which you should take advantage of.
Several types of professionals are available to process your tax returns. Tax preparers have the least formal training and usually work for large tax preparation firms. They can handle all the basic types of returns, and anything that isn't terribly unique or complicated. Enrolled agents are licensed and able to represent clients to the IRS. Therefore, they can take your place at an audit. Certified Public Accountant (CPAs) are highly trained accounting professionals who should be able to handle even the most difficult tax returns. As you might expect, the more highly trained professionals charge more for their services, but they may have a better chance to save you money on your return if you expect your return to be complex. Also, some prefer to handle everything for you, while others are happy doing whatever specific things you want help with; so be sure to find someone interested in providing exactly what you need.
Helpful questions for learning about a tax preparer include:
- What is your tax preparation training and experience?
- Are you an enrolled agent, certified public accountant or lawyer?
- How do you stay familiar with changes to tax laws?
- How many tax forms do you prepare each year?
- How is the accuracy of your work checked? Manually? By computer?
- When and how can you be reached during the year and during tax season?
- Are you able to and will you represent me at an audit?
- How much will you be charging for your services? How does your fee break down?
- How long will it take you to complete my work?