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Steps to Hiring a Tax Professional

There are many types of tax professionals who can help you. But deciding on the appropriate type of tax preparer is the simple part. Finding the right person for the job is the challenge.

If you're planning to enlist the help of a accounting services for business for the first time, or you want a new tax preparer because you're not happy with your current preparer, these five steps will guide you:

1. Ask for referrals.

Ask people around you - relatives, friends, colleagues, etc. - if they can recommend a good tax preparer. If you are new in the area, ask for referrals from with the CPA society in your state, explore the Accreditation Council's website, or use the National Association of Enrolled Agents' enrolled agent search tool.

2. Interview potential agents.

Regardless of how busy they are, individual tax services should be able to find time for a a phone interview (usually 20 to 30 minutes). If someone isn't happy to give you that, or if they want you to pay for that initial interview, look elsewhere.

When interviewing a tax preparer, make sure you ask them about the following:

Experience

You'll want someone who has been doing the job long enough to be able to anticipate IRS challenges and other potential issues.

Credentials

You should only work with a Certified Public Accountant, an Accredited Tax Adviser or an Enrolled Agent. And remember that only a CPA can have the designation, Personal Financial Specialist. Approach your state's licensing board and professional associations to find out whether the candidate has a license, is a member of good standing, and has not been involved in a disciplinary case.

Specialty

If you have specific needs, this is one very important point you should consider. For instance, if you own a small business, you'll need a tax preparer who is an expert in business accounting. Or if you rent out properties as your business, look for somebody who has a lot of experience handling such tax situation.

Fees

See if you have to pay a fixed rate or if you will be charged by the hour, and whether you have to pay extra fees for certain services, like planning meetings over the entire year.

Single Practitioner vs. Firm

If you're planning to hire a preparer who is part of a firm, see if they will go over your returns after the associate has worked on them.

IRS Representation

Ask your potential tax preparer if they will deal with the IRS when there are issues. If not, find another prospect. You sure want someone who can and will come to your defense when needed. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5EiIfIIESw to gain more details about tax preparation.

3. Watch out for warning signs.

Avoid a tax preparer who offers to cheat the IRS to reduce your taxes. And finally, don't hire them if they want you to pay them a percentage of your refund. Reputable tax preparers are always paid a fixed or per-hour fee, period.

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