What To Ask When Choosing a Tax Advisor
With 1.3 million accountants in America, where do you begin in your quest to find a tax preparer 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 preparer’s credibility by asking for professional credentials and background. Experience is key when it comes to taxes and year-round accounting services.
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 in-field expertise … Tax preparers have a range of backgrounds, so ask questions that vet them based on your unique needs.
2) “How Do You Charge Clients?”
Accountants and tax preparers can charge in a variety of ways: by the hour, by the return, by the complexity of forms filed, or even a percentage of the total amount of your refund (a practice that is frowned upon). And with cloud-based accounting, you may have an upcharge to use the platform. 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.
Also, be suspicious if a tax preparer says they can get you a bigger refund than what you have the right to claim.
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 Modes of Communication Do You Use?”
In today’s day in age, you can communicate with tax preparers a number of ways – electronically, via a client portal, or in person. Make sure the tax preparer you select 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… and yet another person may have student loans and recently got married and requires a totally different area of expertise. You get the point… Your life’s situation varies so much from person to person, so it’s important to find a tax preparer with specific topical expertise.
7) “How Quickly Can I Expect You to Prepare and File My Taxes?”
While there is no perfect answer, it’s important that you ask a potential tax preparer what their turnaround time is for filing important tax forms. You could calculate this number from the time you submit important tax or financial information to when they actually file.
8) “What Additional Support Do You Provide?”
For some people, taxes don’t end on April 15th. Taxes are part of your overall financial picture, so it’s important to work them into your financial plan and goals. Some tax preparers, like Block Advisors, go as far as creating a 365 Tax Plan with personalized recommendations to help you minimize your taxes and reach your financial goals1
9) “What Happens if One of Your Clients Gets Audited?”
Every individual fears an audit after filing a return, but 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? (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 return2 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 advisor has an average of 15 years of experience.
Get matched with a TAX ADVISOR nearest you now!
- Block Advisors does not provide investment or legal advice.
- Audit representation does not include legal representation. See plan terms and conditions for details.