June 20, 2022
tax professional

There is no shame in needing professional help during tax season. In fact, if you’re able to afford tax assistance or find community resources, you’ll have a better likelihood of accurate returns. Getting your return completed correctly the first time means fewer delays and getting your refund faster. Choosing the wrong tax professional, however, could hurt you in the long run.

The IRS has shared several tips that could save you a lot of trouble while searching for a tax professional.

Tax Professional Qualifications

You should make sure the tax pro that you choose meets all of the necessary requirements. The IRS has a Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. Enrolled Agents should be licensed by the IRS and must pass a three-part Special Enrollment Examination.

Certified public accountants are licensed by state boards of accountancy in the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. They must pass the Uniform CPA Examination and have completed a study in accounting at a college level. To maintain an active CPA license, it is required that a CPA completes specified levels of continued education.

Tax attorneys are licensed by state courts, the District of Columbia, or designees such as the state bar. If you’re considering hiring an attorney specializing in tax prep, they should still have a degree in law and passed a bar exam.

Tax Professional History

Conducting your own research is crucial to choosing a tax professional. Sources such as the Better Business Bureau can give you some history on the professional that you’re considering. Notable things in their background would be disciplinary actions and the status of their license. The State Board of Accountancy is used for CPAs, the State Bar Association for attorneys, and the IRS verifies enrolled agent status here.

Service Fees for Tax Professionals

The goal of the tax preparer should not be larger refunds than their competitors. Tax preparers that charge by taking a percentage of your refund may not have your best interest in mind. More money sounds great at first, but compliance with the IRS is the ultimate goal. You want to be sure that the tax pro is not using deductions you don’t qualify for, or other means to increase your refund and make more money.

There is never a reason to show your personal documents or Social Security number to a tax preparer when you’re asking about a quote.

Book a Tax Professional Early

You don’t want to wait until the last minute to find a tax professional. As soon as the tax season ends, it’s a good idea to contact a tax preparer for next year. Fly-by-night preparers are high risk investments.

Providing Documentation

Keep records and receipts handy for filing season. This will make the tax preparer’s job a lot easier, and increase the likelihood of accuracy for your return. A good tax preparer should ask questions to figure out your total income and tax deductions, or credits.

Blank Tax Returns, Signing, and Filing

You should never sign a blank tax form, even if the preparer sent it to you. Always review your return thoroughly and ask questions if you’re confused. This is important, you want to make sure the refund is going directly to you, and not through the preparer. They should also provide you with a copy of the completed return.

You also want to make sure that your tax professional e-files your return. Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit is the quickest way for you to get your refund.

Preparer Tax Identification Number

All paid tax preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN, or Preparer Tax Identification Number by law. If your preparer does not have a PTIN, do not move forward with their paid services.

Optima’s Tax Services

Optima specializes in tax debt relief, and provides tax prep and filing services to our clients. If you are in need of assistance with IRS compliance, give us a call for a free consultation at (800) 536-0734.