You don’t want to put off looking for a tax professional while tax season is in full swing. Choosing the first preparer you locate, on the other hand, is a bad idea.
“It’s critical to connect with the correct tax professional from the start,” says Steven Janssen, tax director at Tampa Bay-based financial firm CBIZ MHM. The greatest tax preparers do more than fill out paperwork. They may be able to uncover possible savings, aid in the event of an audit, and provide direction and support year-round.
Many people ask themselves, “How do I discover a decent tax professional near me?” To begin, take the following five steps:
- Recognize your tax preparation requirements.
- Seek referrals from your network.
- Verify your credentials.
- Request an interview.
- Watch for red flags.
Recognize Your Tax Preparation Requirements
The first step in locating the finest tax expert is determining what services you require. For example, some people have simple tax returns. In contrast, others may require the services of a tax preparer who can manage complex tax issues and is available for consultation throughout the year.
Being a CPA or certified public accountant does not guarantee that someone is qualified to manage your taxes. “You wouldn’t go to a podiatrist if you had a heart disease,” says Jeffrey Wood, CPA, and partner at Lift Financial in South Jordan, Utah. However, finance experts, like medical professionals, specialize.
Many CPAs specialize in audits, and those who choose a career in taxation may specialize in a specific sector such as individual, commercial, or real estate taxes. Similarly, non-CPA tax preparers may know some types of returns but not others. “You want to locate someone with the necessary experience,” Wood says.
Seek referrals from your network.
When you’ve determined the breadth of service needed, it’s time to start looking. The greatest way to start is by asking for recommendations or referrals from others.
“Find folks in your network that have a similar profile based on your needs,” says Danielle Voloshin, CFP and investment advisor at Miracle Mile Advisors in Los Angeles. This entails speaking with employees in a comparable field or business owners in the same industry as you. For example, a reputable attorney or insurance agent may also have contacts with knowledgeable tax professionals. This process takes longer than simply typing “tax services near me” into a search engine, but it can assist ensure you are matched with a professional who can expertly handle your tax returns.
Someone hired to prepare taxes, at the absolute least, requires a preparer tax identification number – or PTIN – to file taxes with the IRS. However, practically anybody may obtain a PTIN, and it is no indication that a preparer is competent or provides the services you require.
“There are tax preparers and tax professionals,” Janssen explains. Tax preparers, such as those found at tax preparation businesses such as Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax, may be able to handle uncomplicated tax returns. Still, they aren’t often equipped to provide in-depth tax advice.
Seek the assistance of an enrolled agent, CPA, or tax attorney for more complex returns or assistance with tax-saving methods.