Completing your own taxes is time consuming and overwhelming. If you aren’t sure what you’re doing or you just don’t want to do them yourself, you need tax preparation services. While you could jump online and choose the first tax preparer the search engines give you, there are some considerations to make before choosing.
Your tax preparer will handle one of the most important aspects of your finances – your taxes. You want someone that will stand behind their work, operate within compliance, and offer you advice as needed.
So how do you find the best tax preparation services near you? Check out our tips below.
Start with the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers
Anyone with a tax preparer license can prepare your taxes, but don’t stop there. Look for tax preparers with credentials to handle more than filing your 1040. What would happen if you were audited or had to file an appeal? Only CPAs and enrolled agents may represent you with the IRS. Look for tax preparation services on the IRS list for the best protection.
Look for Experienced Tax Professionals
Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want a rookie working on your tax return, especially if you have special circumstances. Ideally, look for tax preparers with 7 – 10 years of experience.
Why so much? This gives them enough time to have experienced just about any circumstances that could occur and makes them more likely to be able to relate to your situation, no matter how unique.
Look at Fees
You’ll pay various fees depending on the tax preparation services you choose. If you have just a 1040 with itemized deductions, for example, you’ll pay between $165 – $488 depending on the state you live in. Every addition you have to the standard 1040, such as Schedule C, Form 709, or Form 1065 increases the fees accordingly.
Compare fees from several providers so you can choose the service that offers the lowest prices but also the best service.
Ask About Other Services
Tax preparation services should look beyond the traditional tax filing and help you moving forward. Ask a preparer what other services they provide. For example:
- Do they help you figure out how to save money on taxes for the next tax year?
- Do they have advice on things you could change to reduce your liability?
- Do they help you understand your audit risk and protect you should it occur?
- How do they handle errors or any communication from the IRS after the filing date?
- Does the provider handle tax extensions? If so, how much do they charge?
Do your Research
Ask others who used the tax preparation services what they thought. Did the provider e-file or paper file? If he/she e-filed, it’s a sign that the preparer does more than 10 filings every tax year. If the preparer paper filed, it could be a sign that he/she isn’t as experienced as you thought.
Also, ask about the preparer signing their returns. By law, tax preparers must sign your 1040 below your signature stating that they prepared your taxes. Only sign your tax return after the preparer completed your tax returns. If anyone says the preparer asked him/her to sign the taxes before they were complete, look the other way.
Ask Around in any Networking Groups you Belong To
You’d be surprised how often people are willing to share the name of their tax preparation services when they are happy. If you are in a network of people in the same industry as you, it may even give you more reassurance that you’re choosing the right person based on their experience.
Finding the right tax preparation services near you is important. It affects how much you’ll owe at tax time, plus it affects your overall protection from the IRS. Mistakes and audits happen – it’s a part of life. But without the protection of a proper tax preparer, you could find yourself in more hot water than you’d like.
Do your due diligence and find a tax preparer that has the experience you desire and will have your back no matter what. Find someone experienced yet affordable. Believe it or not, they are out there, you just have to know where to look.