What to ask when choosing a tax pro
With 1.3 million accountants in America, where do you begin in your quest to find a tax professional who best suits your unique needs?
If you don’t have the time or expertise to do your own taxes, here are the questions to ask to find the right one:
1) “What’s your tax background?”
First, define a tax pro’s credibility by asking for professional credentials and background. Experience is key when it comes to tax service providers.
CERTIFICATIONS ARE CRITICAL WHEN IT COMES TO TAX AND ACCOUNTING. IT’S ALL ABOUT ACRONYMS:
- CPA: A certified public accountant, or CPA, is certified to act as a public accountant. A CPA is the only licensed qualification in accounting and is granted after you pass an exam. CPAs can practice in other areas of accountancy besides taxes, too.
- EA: An enrolled agent (EA), the highest credential awarded by the IRS, is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of taxation and who is empowered by the U.S. Department of Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service for audits, collections, and appeals. Only enrolled agents, attorneys, and CPAs may represent taxpayers before the IRS.
- PTIN: Any person authorized to prepare your tax return for a fee needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN.
Another good question to ask is: “How long have you been preparing returns, and what courses have you completed?” It’s critical to select a tax advisor with experience or expertise.
Tax pros have a range of backgrounds, so ask questions that vet them based on your unique needs.
2) “How do you charge clients?”
Tax services charge in a variety of ways: by the hour, return, the complexity/number of forms, or even by a percentage of the total amount of your refund. While you might not get a hard number of the amount you will owe, establish the context of cost so you are not surprised down the road.
3) “How do you file taxes?”
Most individuals prefer e-filing a tax return, yet many tax preparers will mail them. Define the filing method they use with clients. (Generally, a paid tax preparer who files 11 or more tax returns is required to electronically file.)
4) “When are you available?”
Availability is important – not only within the working day, but also year round.
- First ask: “What is your typical response time?” (Even in the heat of tax season.) Point blank: you may have a question that needs prompt attention, so choose an advisor who is available and quick to respond – preferably within 48-hours.
- Then ask: “What is your availability year-round?” Even after taxes are filed, the IRS may need more information about your tax return, so the preparer should be available to you. On top of this, your taxes are just one part of your overall tax and financial picture, so it’s important to find an advisor who suits your needs throughout the year.
5) “What type of communication do you use?”
In today’s day in age, you can communicate with tax pros a number of ways – electronically, via a client portal, or in person. Make sure the tax pro meets your needs in this area.
6) “What areas do you specialize in?”
People’s lives vary – thus so do taxes. One person may be a small business owner who has to file estimated quarterly taxes, while another may be a standard employee but has multiple real estate properties. Your life situation varies so much from person to person, so it’s important to find a tax preparer with specific expertise.
7) “How quickly can I expect to prepare and file taxes?”
While there is no perfect answer, it’s important that you ask a potential tax pro what their turnaround time is for filing important small business tax forms.
8) “What additional tax support do you offer?”
For most small business owners, taxes don’t end on April 15–they’re year-round. So, it’s important to work them into your financial plan for your business. Block Advisors small business certified tax pros are available to offer advice and keep you and your business on track.
9) “What happens if one of your clients gets audited?”
Any small business owner is at a slightly higher risk of getting audited over an individual tax filer, so you need to ask how the tax preparer handles audits. Will the preparer represent your case to the IRS? What about the cost to fix mistakes… How do they calculate this?
(Keep in mind: If you receive a notice from the IRS or are audited, Block Advisors will support you. Through our Peace of Mind® Extended Service Plan, you’ll receive audit representation for the life of the return1 at no additional charge.)
All in all, finding a quality tax preparer for you can be tricky. While there are many options out there when it comes to tax preparation and year-round tax support, consider Block Advisors, where each tax pro has an average of 12 years of experience. Additionally, each tax pro undergoes training earn Block Advisors’ proprietary certification to care for your small business needs.
Make an appointment today!
*Block Advisors does not provide investment or legal advice.
*Audit representation does not include legal representation. See plan terms and conditions for details.