unclesam-taxesThe IRS started accepting tax returns January 31st so it’s a good time to start thinking about your own taxes.  Kelly Phillips Erb recently wrote an article that provides an excellent check list of questions to ask your tax preparer when filing your taxes before handing over your w-2’s or 1099’s:

  1. Do you have a PTIN?   (This is a Tax Preparer Identification Number)
  2. What is your tax background? (CFP®, CPA, EA, JD, VITA) Tax preparers that are being compensated for their time should carry one of the these professional designations or certifications: CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Certified Public Accountant, Enrolled Agent, Juris Doctor, Voluntary Income Tax Assistance.
  3. Have you prepared a tax return before?
  4. Do you know the requirements for filing returns in my area? (Filing taxes for income earned in multiple state or states other than the one you are currently residing in)
  5. What records or documentation will you need from me?  It is a good idea to bring the previous year’s tax returns as well as all income documentation, and proof of any expenses that you think could be deductible.
  6. How do you determine your fee? (By the hour or per line item on the return, etc.)
  7. Can I file electronically? (Pretty much a given – just about all returns are e-filed now)
  8. Who will sign my return? Remember the first question. Do not trust a preparer that will not sign your return or cannot tell you who will be signing your return.
  9. Will I receive a copy of my return? (This sounds like a given but sometimes preparers do not provide a copy of the return without a request)
  10. How do I find you if there is a problem with my return after the tax season is over? (Especially important if the preparers is only in business during tax season)
  11. What happens if I get audited?

Be sure to check out Erb’s article for the “right” and “wrong” responses to these key questions.

Source: Forbes