Tax season is here once again, meaning sorting out expenses, deductions, tax breaks and more. Filing your taxes can be a daunting task, and it’s critical to get it right. Tax preparers can help a great deal, bringing knowledge and experience about various tax codes and laws. But not all tax preparers are created equal, and not all of them have your best interests at heart.
If you’re in the market for a tax preparer this year, there are several essential things to keep in mind. Choosing correctly will mean you get all the tax breaks due to you, maximizing your return or minimizing what you owe while protecting your financial health.
Tax preparers must obtain a preparer tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. Preparers must pass checks with the federal government, and they must renew their number every year for it to remain valid. These numbers are different from licenses, which some states require tax preparers have to earn compensation for preparing tax returns. The preparer must write this number on every return they file.
Tax preparers have various methods for setting their fees, so make sure that you ask and thoroughly understand how you’ll be charged for their work. You can shop around and compare to maximize value. The IRS recommends against using a preparer who bases fees on a percentage of the refund or makes guarantees or claims about your refund relative to their competition.
It’s crucial to work with a trustworthy tax preparer. This person will have access to large amounts of your financial data and your Social Security Number. You shouldn’t give this information to just anyone, and be on the lookout for tax preparers who pop up in your community just for tax season. You can use resources like the Better Business Bureau to investigate a tax preparer’s reputation and ensure that you’re dealing with an honest person.
Stay vigilant even after making your choice
Keep an eye out for certain red flags when working with your preparer. Perhaps the biggest warning is a request to sign a blank tax return. A reputable tax preparer will never ask you to do this. They should also allow you to review the return and offer to e-file it for you. Finally, if you’re getting a refund, double-check the bank account numbers where the money is supposed to be deposited to ensure that your money will end up where it belongs — with you.
Your relationship with your tax preparer doesn’t end once your return is filed. Before settling on one, make sure that they’ll still be available after filing to help you in case of an audit. Reputable professionals know that this is part of the job and are ready and willing to answer questions or offer help after filing.
This tip is especially important if you have a unique or particularly complex tax return. Completing a simple tax return is a fairly straightforward task, and just about any preparer can do it. But, if you’re self-employed, have lots of deductions or have additional complicating factors, you should find a tax preparer who has experience with similar kinds of returns. This experience is invaluable when it comes to getting your taxes right.
Tax season can be stressful and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. Armed with the proper questions and expectations, you can find a tax preparer who will work with you to get the best possible results for you, your family and your money.
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