10 Questions You Should Ask Your Tax Preparer

With complex jargon like 1040, tax credit and deductibles, filing annual tax returns can be a daunting task! Thankfully, we can rely on the help of tax professionals (also known as tax advisors or tax preparers) to help us file correctly and get the most out of our tax returns. Choosing the right tax preparer is important to not only your finances, but also your privacy as you need to share personal details about your income and identity with this individual in order to file. Follow this helpful guide below to learn the right questions to ask when choosing a good tax preparer.

Keep in mind: Avoid falling into the clutches of ‘ghost preparers,’ tax preparers that refuse to sign returns when filing. These individuals promise better refunds, but cause an array of legal problems instead.

1. How Long Have You Been Working as a Tax Preparer?

It’s important to verify that your tax professional is qualified to prepare your taxes. Check the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Tax Preparer Directory to see if they are listed and review their credentials and qualifications. You can also find more information about the preparer's professional history by contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

2. How Much Do You Charge?

Tax preparer’s costs can vary depending on each individual’s income / business ventures and the amount of work needed to file each return. It’s important to remember that their fees shouldn’t be based on the amount of your refund. We strongly recommend that you avoid tax professionals that base their prices off of a percentage of your refund. 

3. Will My Return Be Sent by E-file?

Make sure that your preparer files your tax return electronically with the IRS. Filing your taxes with e-file speeds up the process and helps you receive your refund faster.

4. How Will I Receive My Refund?

You can choose to receive your IRS refund in the mail via check or through a direct bank deposit. The latter option is typically the fastest and most secure method.

5. What Documents Do I Need to Provide?

A thorough tax preparer will ask to see all your tax statements, records and receipts. In addition, they’ll have to ask personal questions to calculate essential data, such as your total income and tax deductions.

6. Will You Sign Using Your PTIN Number?

The Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is the identification number that every official tax preparer must have. By law, all preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN. 

7. Will You Give Me A Copy Of My Completed Tax Return And Give Me My Original Documents Back?

Ensure that your tax preparer provides you with a copy of your tax return once it has been filed. They’ll also give you back all of your tax statements and other important documents used to file your tax return.

8. Can You Help Me If The IRS Contacts Me About My Return?

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Ask your future tax preparer to commit to providing advice on any questions or audits you may receive from the IRS. 

9. Are You Available All Year Round?

Don’t rule out the possibility of needing your preparer's services at any time of the year. Make sure they’re available throughout the entire year and not just during tax season.

10. How Do You Keep Yourself Informed About Changes in Tax Regulations?

Because tax laws are constantly changing, you should make sure that your tax preparer constantly updates their knowledge on these topics through continuing education. Continuing education includes courses and information required to keep their license valid.

Fulfill Your Civic Duty

Taxes are the main revenue stream for the government. This money is then spent on public services, such as education, security, and justice. Paying your taxes to the IRS on time can help you build a reliable economic record that can bring you future advantages, such as renting a property or asking for a bank loan. One of the most important benefits is avoiding any legal problems that not paying taxes can bring, leaving you with peace of mind. 

Now that you know what to look for in a tax preparer or tax professional and what questions to ask, we know that you will feel more confident when filing your next tax return. Remember, if for any reason you feel that your tax preparer is being dishonest, report them immediately to the IRS. This can not only help protect your information, but also help others in your community!