Choosing a tax preparer can be tough. If you are using the internet to find me or another preparer or firm, it’s even harder. However, and whoever, you find them,  I want you to choose wisely. You are legally responsible for the information on the return, even if someone else to prepares your return. Here are some tips to use when choosing a tax return preparer:

Ask someone you trust.  Asking friends and family what firm or professional they use for tax services is always a good place to start. In fact it is better than using the internet.

Check the preparer’s qualifications.  All paid tax return preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. Ask if the preparer belongs to a professional organization and attends continuing education classes.

Check on the preparer’s history.  Research their history with the Better Business Bureau, the state boards of accountancy, the state bar associations, or IRS Office of Enrollment.

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 can.

Ask to e-file your return.  Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. 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.

Make sure the preparer is accessible.  Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return, even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions arise about your tax return.

Provide records and receipts.  Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts. They will ask you questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for deductions, credits and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return by using your last pay stub before you receive your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

Make sure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.  A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

If you have any additional questions about picking a tax preparer, call me or click here.

Jéneen R. Perkins is a freelance accountant and consultant serving entrepreneurs, families and small businesses. She prides herself in being fluent in English instead of “Accountant-ese”.