Choosing the Right Tax Accountant
January 18, 2018 by Laura Kotenko, CPA, M.S.T.
Happy New Year! Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s time to start thinking about tax return preparation. With the recent passage of the new tax laws, it’s never been more important that you work with a competent tax accountant to prepare your return. Here are five helpful tips for choosing a tax accountant who is qualified, credentialed and on top of all the tax law changes going forward.
Tax Tip #1
Check the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This online directory lets you search tax accountants, agents, actuaries, and other professionals in your area. Keep in mind that you, the filer, are ultimately responsible for your tax return, so it is always a good idea to also check licensure status at Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website. This search will also reveal if any enforcement actions have been taken against them. All Michigan-licensed tax accountants will be listed in the state data base, but not necessarily in the IRS database.
Tax Tip #2
If you aren’t sure what type of tax accountant you need, the IRS offers a great description of different types of professionals, whether or not they have representation rights before the IRS and more.
Tax Tip #3
When you narrow the field of possible tax accounts by qualifications and licensure status, you will want to speak to them to find out several specific things including:
- Their services and fees. Keep in mind the IRS recommends avoiding tax accountants who base their fees on a percentage of your return or who claim to get bigger refunds for their clients than their competition does. Also, during this phase, never give the tax accountant your social security number or tax documents as unscrupulous preparers have used this information to file fraudulent tax returns.
- Their e-filing status. Experienced tax accountants who prepare taxes for more than 10 clients generally must e-file.
- Ask if they will be available. You want a tax accountant who is able to take on your tax return when you want them to, even if it’s after the April 18 filing deadline. This also a good way to weed out questionable tax accounts who vanish after the filing deadline.
Tax Tip #4
After choosing a tax accountant, you still have responsibilities to ensure your tax accountant has what he or she needs to do their job and that you get the high-quality service you expect and deserve:
- Provide adequate information. Be prepared to provide your tax accountant with records and receipts and to answer questions regarding your income, deductions, credits, and other financial concerns. Note that it is against IRS e-file rules to file a tax return using a pay stub instead of a Form W-2. If your tax accountant suggests this, keep looking.
- Never sign a blank tax return. This is another red flag that your accountant may not have your best interests at heart.
- Review your return before signing and filing. Take the time to review your completed tax return with your tax accountant so that you can ask questions and double check bank routing and account numbers to ensure the return is going into your account, not your preparer’s.
- Check signatures. During your tax review, make sure the tax accountant has signed your return and included their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), as required by law.
- Get a copy of your filed return. Your tax accountant should provide you with a paper copy of your entire return and all forms filed with it.
Tax Tip #5
While most tax accountants adhere to the highest professional standards of practice, unscrupulous ones do exist. If you feel your tax accountant was abusive or behaved fraudulently, you should report them to the IRS using Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer, or Form 14157-A, Return or Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit if you believe your return was changed or filed without your consent.
It’s never too early to find a tax accountant and Gordon Advisors professionals are always ready to answer your questions and discuss your tax and accounting needs. Contact us today and find out how we can take the stress out of tax season for you!