How to Choose the Right Person to Handle Your Taxes

Taxes are one of life’s inevitabilities. No matter what you do, you will sooner or later have to fill in a tax return. If you send in a faulty return, you could end up being hit with some pretty steep penalties. Follow these tips to find a professional tax preparer that you can trust with your finances.

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Ask for a Tax Identification Number

Under US law, any tax professional is required to provide their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Under IRS rules, anyone who assists other people in filling out their tax returns “for compensation” must have a PTIN. They will need to add this information to your return, so you will want to be able to double-check the number they put on your form against the PTIN they give you.

If they aren’t willing to provide you with a PTIN, chances are they aren’t a legitimate preparer. Unfortunately, there are scammers and fraudsters out there who will have the veneer of a legitimate preparer but who are not actually accredited. You can minimize your chances of being ensnared by one of these traps by checking out online reviews for any potential preparers. This review of Tax Group Center is a perfect example.

Check Their Credentials

Any tax preparer should be willing to hand over their PTIN to you when you ask for it, so hopefully, you won’t have any trouble getting hold of it. Most preparers will be happy to go even further and provide you with evidence of further accreditation and qualifications. For example, they may have completed the IRS: Annual Filing Season program or they might also be a licensed attorney who specializes in tax law. You can search the IRS directory to find tax preparers who hold particular credentials. 

Compare Fees

Before you commit to a particular preparer, first shop around and make sure that you are getting the best deal you can. You don’t necessarily want to go with the cheapest preparer you can find, you might need to be willing to pay a higher price if you need someone with a particular niche or specialty.

The average fee for a tax preparer is around $300, or $188 if the return doesn’t include itemized deductions. Tax preparers generally charge by the hour, in fact, you should be wary of anyone who is claiming to charge according to the size of your return, or who is claiming that they will be able to get you a bigger refund than anyone else. Stick to preparers who will charge you a reasonable hourly rate and whose fees are in line with the industry standards.

Never Sign a Blank Return

Your preparer is legally required to sign your tax return before they submit it, as are you. You should never put your signature to the document until it is completed. Otherwise, you are essentially writing a blank check! Fraudsters can simply replace your bank details with their own and receive your refund.

You don’t want to be hit with any surprise IRS penalties because of a faulty tax return. Using a professional tax preparer will save you a lot of trouble, and potentially money. Make sure you carefully research any potential preparers to ensure they are legit.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.