By the end of 2013, all tax preparers must have completed an exam from the IRS and must also have completed at least 15 hours of training in new tax laws, current tax policies and tax preparation ethics.
The new rules affect all tax preparers that do not work for CPAs or attorneys, so many locally-owned tax businesses will be impacted by these changes.
Taxpayers should always ask the person preparing their taxes a few questions to be sure they are well-trained and can handle financial information and any special circumstances. When considering the qualifications of a tax preparer, be sure to know the following information:
How long have they been preparing taxes?
This is not always a sign that the preparer is bad or good, but more experience usually means they have experience dealing with more diverse situations and complex returns.
Where were they trained?
Being self taught is not always a red flag, but often they are not aware of all the laws and may not know how to access information for difficult returns. Choose preparers who are formally trained whenever possible. Larger tax companies train their new employees for at least eight weeks and only allow them to do returns when supervised by more experienced employees. Ask the preparer if they have any special designations for tax preparation if your returns tend to be more complex. These special designations mean they have been tested through the IRS and have a certain level of knowledge.
How comfortable does the preparer seem while doing the return?
Many times taxpayers feel like they have to continue having their return prepared by a person they aren't comfortable with in the first place. Not true! If you feel like they are not well trained it is wise to ask for another more experienced preparer (or take your business elsewhere). This will save time and headaches (and often money) later on. Trust your instincts. You wouldn't buy a car from someone you don't trust, so why let someone do something as important as your taxes if you aren't comfortable?
You get what you pay for!
Taxpayers often do not understand that the fees associated with preparing their return are not just for the face time spent with that person but also for any follow-up the tax service performs even after the return is complete. The more complex the return, the higher the cost will be for the service. If you usually have a simple return but will have a more complicated return to file this year, expect the fees to be higher than usual.
If someone offers to get you a higher refund for a higher fee, they are not doing their job correctly, and you should not allow them to do your taxes. Honest tax services have fees that are based on the complexity of the return, not on the amount of the refund. If you have an issue with your return, a great tax preparation service will always be there to help, even after April 15. They will also be available to assist you with any additional questions that are tax related but not necessarily on your tax return.
Asking these simple questions can save you a lot of time and irritation during tax season, so use them to be sure to get the best service for your money this year!
This is a guest post by Christy from Greenville, SC
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