4 Areas To Evaluate Your Tax Preparer

Posted by: Brookside Admin

You have a seemingly endless number of options when you're in need of professional tax help. In order to narrow down, and ultimately choose between these options, it's important to carefully consider your specific needs and the services and expertise provided by the potential tax preparers. In order to learn more about each of them, ask them questions directly. Here is some of the most important areas you'll want to learn about before working with a new CPA.

  • Qualifications

  Unfortunately, each spring many unqualified businesses pop up that offer tax services. These businesses may well prepare your taxes for you, but it's unlikely that they do so in a professional manner that ends up in your best interests. First, verify that the tax preparer you plan to work with is in fact a CPA, which means they hold a state license and have fulfilled the educational and ethical requirements. This is also a good time to ask about the continuing education they've recently completed. Tax professionals need to always be learning because the US Tax Code is always changing. If a tax preparer is lacking in their current knowledge, it could result in missed opportunities and incorrectly filed information.

  • Type of business

There's a big difference between a stable, respected accounting firm and a temporary, seasonal tax preparer. These differences are likely to show up on your tax return and your refund check, so it's best to do a little investigating before trusting anyone with your return. An established accounting firm will be available after tax day and year round in case you're chosen for an audit or other issues come up. In many cases, a seasonal tax preparer has already closed their doors by the time audit notifications reach you, which leaves you trying to hunt them down or trying to find a more qualified individual to help your case.

  • Signatures

Again, this issue directly relates to the credibility of your tax preparer. A trusted CPA will sign any tax returns they prepare to identify themselves. This will be accompanied by their PTIN, or Professional Tax Identification Number, which they're required to renew each year. If a tax preparer doesn't sign the returns they prepare, it's likely because they've failed to obtain or renew their PTIN, or are lacking other necessary credentials. This is a major red flag that this preparer isn't able to bring you the best refund possible and accurately file your return.

  • Expertise

If all the basic credentials are in order, move on to asking about your specific situation. Ask them how often they work with audits in case that situation arises. Also, ask about how and when they file for extensions. There's nothing wrong with extensions, but overloaded accountants have been known to file them unnecessarily, which could potentially cost you, the tax payer, money if you have an outstanding debt. Finally, ask what happens should there be a mistake on your return. While this is less likely when you work with a knowledgable and experienced CPA, human error is always a possibility. You should find out ahead of time what you're responsible for and what your tax preparer is responsible for.

To learn about our capabilities, processes and experience at Brown Kinion and Company, contact us at our offices in Tulsa / Bixby or Broken Arrow.