Check out your tax preparer
signing your 1040 form, you agree to abide by the tax law that holds you responsible
for paying your taxes, regardless of who prepares your return. When it comes to
collecting on mistakes, innocent or otherwise, the Internal Revenue Service looks
for the taxpayer, not the person who filled out the forms.
before you turn your tax life over to someone else, make sure that the preparer
is right for you and will do the right thing when it comes to filing your taxes.
easiest way to ensure you have a reputable preparer is to get one who is accredited,
says Cindy Hockenberry, an enrolled agent and spokeswoman for the National
Association of Tax Professionals.
Look for a certified
public accountant, an enrolled
agent or a tax attorney.
"Typically, these preparers are required to maintain
continuing education credits to maintain their
designation," Hockenberry says. "This
is a real plus for the taxpayers because they
will have some additional security knowing the
preparer they chose is up to date on the latest
tax law changes."
a little deeper
Once you locate a preparer with good credentials,
dig a little deeper into his background. Find
out how long he has been in the tax preparation
business, Hockenberry says, and what services
In addition, find out if the preparer belongs to any
professional organizations. "This indicates
a dedication to their chosen profession,"
References are easiest to check when you use a preparer
recommended by family and friends. If you select someone totally new to you, don't
be afraid to ask for references and follow up with them to see if they are satisfied
with the service.
Hockenberry also recommends checking the preparer's fee before any work is done.
"This will eliminate any surprises when you go to pick up your return,"
she says, "and will also tell you if the preparer overcharges in comparison
to other preparers in your geographic location."
And since tax issues can pop up anytime, find
a preparer who will be around, with regular
office hours, after the April deadline. "There
is nothing more frustrating for a taxpayer than
when he or she cannot reach the preparer during
the year," Hockenberry says.
Most of the large tax preparation firms have Web sites
detailing franchise locations and operation
hours. If you decide to use an independent preparer,
you can search the National Association of Tax
database by ZIP code to find a preparer near you.
You also can find out more about the types of tax-filing services available in Bankrate's "Your tax preparer choices."
|-- Updated: Feb. 23, 2009