How to Choose Your Tax Preparer

Tax season is officially in high gear!  My office desk is already piled with work and my e-mail inbox is pretty much maxed out with messages.  Needless to say, this time of year is very stressful.  To manage my own personal sanity, I start picking out key dates on the calendar that signal an end to this craziness.

If you have been reading my articles every week, you probably already know what type of dates are key for me.  The first date has come and gone, which was February 13th – the first day pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training for the Phillies.  The next date actually includes two events for me this year, which is March 12th.  This date is when the NCAA March Madness tournament bracket is announced and it’s Daylight’s Savings time.  I know the Daylight’s Savings time may seem strange, but that is my first personal sign that Spring is around the corner.  If you are basketball fan like me, the bracket announcement speaks for itself.  Of course the next key date is the business tax deadline, March 15th.  The next two dates line up similarly to March 12th – my wife’s birthday, April 1st and the start of the MLB season which is April 2nd this year.  Once these come and go I know the home stretch to April 15th is my only obstacle to start enjoying the Spring!

Speaking of tax season, have you thought about which tax preparer you will be using to file your taxes? If you haven’t had a need to use one in the past or you are unhappy with your current tax preparer here are some good tips to help you with your process:
  • Talk to your trusted circle: If someone you trust has a good tax preparer, ask for a referral to who he or she uses each year.
  • Do your due diligence: I cannot overstate this point enough.  You are handing over sensitive information to the tax preparer so you need to have comfort with who you will be working even if you are referred to a tax preparer.  Request a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN.  All tax preparers are required to have this by the IRS.  If the preparer is also a CPA, ask for a license number.  You can then call the State Board of Accountancy to ensure they are in good standing.  Check the Better Business Bureau to make sure the preparer’s history is in-line.
  • Make sure you discuss their fee structure: tax preparer standards do not allow for the fees to be based on a percentage of a refund.  If you are being quoted in this manner, I highly recommend finding someone else to do your taxes.  Another tip to remember – the cheapest isn’t always your best option.  If you have a complex return, a seasoned tax preparer will most likely help you find tax deductions you have never considered.  In many cases, the additional savings were greater than the additional costs.
  • Confirm your filing date: make sure your tax preparer has the availability to complete your taxes on a timely basis.  If you have gotten refunds in the past, try to get ahead of the filing rush in April so your direct deposit or check gets to you on as soon as possible.
  • Have your tax records ready to go: Tax preparers are extremely busy this time of year and there are only so many hours in the day.  If you are ready with all of your tax documents, get them to your tax preparer ASAP.
  • Do not file your return without looking at a draft version: regardless of who preparers your taxes and how much you trust them, you should ask for a draft copy of your taxes to review.  Once you are done, ask your preparer to go over the key items of your return.  Also, make sure the tax calculations are correct.  It never hurts to ask questions to ensure accuracy.
  • Check the direct deposit information: double check your bank information (account number and routing number) are correct so your refund isn’t being held up.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly!