Hiring a Tax Preparer and Preparing Your Tax Return
If you have a simple tax return, such as a 1040EZ or a 1040 with a standard deduction, in general there is no need to hire a professional preparer. There are many free tax filing services available so you can prepare and e-file your return quickly.
However, if you do have a more complicated return, there are a few things you should keep in mind; because whether you do it yourself or hire a tax preparer/firm, you are still legally responsible for your return. So before hiring a preparer, remember the following:
Check Qualifications: Are they licensed? A member of a professional organization? Answers to these questions will help you determine their level of responsibility and reliability.
Check History: Have any complaints been filed with the Better Business Bureau? Any disciplinary actions through the state board of accountancy?
Ask About Fees: Be sure to avoid those preparers who base their fees on a percentage of your refund or guarantee you a larger refund.
Determine their Accessibility: Can you contact your preparer after your return is filed with any questions? Are they available to you after April 15?
Never, ever sign a blank return. Once your return is completed, be sure to review it entirely before signing. If you don't understand something, ask questions until you do. In addition, make sure that your preparer signs your return, which is required by law, and provides you with a copy for your records.
So, why should you hire a CPA (Certified Public Accountant)?
CPAs are valued and trusted business advisors. Even though the terms ‘accountant' and ‘CPA' are used interchangeably, there are some major differences:
CPAs are Licensed. CPAs are licensed through a particular state. In order to maintain that license, CPAs must complete continuing education about new rules and regulations AND follow a strict code of ethics.
More than Tax Preparers. CPAs provide more than tax preparation services. Many provide planning and consulting services and can assist you with your financial questions. CPAs are available all year round.
Professional Reliability. CPAs have gone over many hurdles to gain accreditation and have to adhere to strict standards. Therefore, they can be trusted with confidential information, saving you time by preparing your tax returns - leaving you free to focus on other matters.
A Good Night's Sleep. Think how much better you'll sleep at night knowing that your tax return is being prepared by a CPA who lives and breathes tax laws and guidelines, and is working in your best interest!