Are you among the 60 percent of taxpayers who plan to hire someone to do your taxes? Did you know, you are responsible for the information provided in your return even if it is prepared by someone else? Making an informed choice when hiring a tax professional is essential to filing an accurate return and receiving any additional assistance you may need.
Here are several questions to ask before hiring someone to prepare your 2018 tax returns:
- Is the preparer registered with the IRS and do they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)? Will the preparer sign my return? Regardless of other credentials (see below), all tax preparers must have a PTIN to accept fees for preparing tax returns legally. They are also required by law to sign all returns with their name to provide their PTIN on any returns they prepare.
- How are fees determined? Reasonable fees may vary. You should expect to pay higher or additional fees for multiple schedules and complicated tax returns. The preparer should inform you of additional charges along the way. Never assume a commercial chain will charge a lower fee than an independent professional or firm and never use a tax preparer who bases the fee structure on the amount of the return or refund.
- What types of returns does the preparer prepare? No one can be an expert in all things tax-related. If you have unique circumstances because of your investments, occupation or residency status, find a tax preparer who has experience with your specific situation. If you live in one state and work in another state (or states), be sure the preparer is familiar with returns for both the resident and non-resident states.
- Is the preparer available during the year if you need help? Your preparer should be available to answer questions and to provide information as needed via phone or email throughout the year. You should know if your preparer can respond to letters of inquiry from the IRS or the Department of Revenue. Can the preparer attend the audit with you or as your representative? Ask what additional fees are incurred for these services. Know the policies for paying or getting reimbursed for any fees or penalties assessed on errors that are the fault of the preparer.
- Will I be receiving any refunds directly (i.e., through the mail or direct deposit)? Refunds should come to you directly, and direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get your refund.