If you keep up with our blog, you may have read our recent blog post on how to determine whether you should hire a professional tax preparer to do your tax return. This article generated interest from readers wanting to know what kind of questions to ask a professional tax preparer before hiring them. While we already touched upon some great points in our previous article, we put together a list of additional questions written with the help of our Payroll Compliance Director Merle Capello CPP.
Questions to Ask a Tax Preparer
1. Where did you train, if you trained formally?
Did you apprentice and work with a senior, or have you always worked independently? (This may give you a comfort level about the person you choose if he/she is not already known to you, and the type of training might also be indicative of the individual).
2. How long have you been preparing personal taxes?
How many returns do you estimate you have done? (This is another indicator of the level of experience and possibly an indicator of cost).
3. Do you do any other tax work?
Do you prepare small business or other types of returns? Do you work with attorneys or CPAs on tax issues?
4. What percentage of your clients have been audited for their personal returns?
Without divulging confidential information, what types of things triggered these audits? (This might give insight as to how a professional creates returns on behalf of clients).
5. Can you provide references for your past work?
If a professional is confident in their abilities and has been honest about their work experience, they shouldn’t hesitate to provide references to confirm the quality of their services.
6. Do you have a PTIN (preparer tax identification number)?
Regardless of tax background or certification, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires all paid tax preparers have a valid 2017 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) before preparing your return. You can check their credentials online by using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) online PTIN directory.
7. Do you know the requirements of the states and localities where I am required to file?
State and localities often have their own filing requirements, so make sure that your preparer knows and can handle all of those filing requirements.
8. What records and other documentation will you need from me?
A reputable professional should be able to tell you what they’ll need from you in order to prepare your return (stay away from those willing to e-file your return just by using a pay stub).
9. How do you determine your fees?
Ask how your tax preparer bases pricing and determine fees. Often times you’ll find that it depends on how complex your tax return is, so make sure you understand what you’re being charged for. If you’d like to be proactive, you can also inquire about whether you’ll be charged for extra services that may, like the cost to fix and mistakes or to e-file.
10. Can I file electronically?
The IRS recommends e-filing due to its numerous benefits, including getting a faster refund. Ask your tax preparer whether you can file your return electronically. An informed, certified tax preparer knows all the tricks to minimize your tax bills and makes sure that you’ve capitalized on all the deductions and credits you can in order to ensure your tax return is expertly prepared.
This article was co-written with Director of Payroll Compliance Merle M. Capello, CPP.