By Chris Whiting, CFP®, Executive Vice President, Director of Sales and MarketingPrint This Post
For many people, preparing and filing their tax return can be a time consuming and challenging process. On top of an already complex tax code, keeping up with various annual adjustments – such as earnings thresholds, deductions, etc. – as well as understanding and evaluating the potential impact of tax changes can be challenging, and may have you thinking about partnering with a tax professional. And if you’re a business owner, your situation may likely be even more complex.
Working with a tax professional may offer a variety of benefits including saving you time, catching mistakes, or reducing your tax liability. They may also be able to help with evaluating long-term tax planning strategies and even support you in the unfortunate event of an audit.
If you’re contemplating working with a tax professional, it’s important to consider several factors:
- Hire the Right Tax Professional – individuals that prepare tax returns have various levels of education, experience, and qualifications – including Enrolled Agents and Certified Public Accountants (CPA), etc. CPAs may handle more complex situations and must complete detailed studies in accounting, as well as meet ongoing requirements to maintain their license. However, not all CPAs specialize in tax preparation. To learn more about various Tax Preparer credentials and/or to search for a Tax Preparer in your area, the IRS provides several helpful resources: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/understanding-tax-return-preparer-credentials-and-qualifications
- Evaluate and Understand Fees – tax professionals typically charge based on the complexity of your return. This can be based on a number of factors, including schedules or additional forms needed to complete the return. Costs may include flat fees, or may be a percentage of your refund, or hourly fees – or a combination of these. Having a clear understanding of the potential fees up front is important when starting this relationship.
- Audit Support – ask the preparer if they will support you during an audit and if so, what additional costs may be involved.
- Open for New Clients – do they have time to dedicate to you and your specific situation? And can they meet your expectations on filing (if any). Some tax preparers file closer to the deadline regardless of how soon you get them your documents. Other tax professionals may suggest extending your return filing date (in some cases your situation may require you to extend). Either way, it’s important to be on the same page.
- Sharing Documents – discuss and get an understanding of the process used to share documents and review draft tax returns. Many tax professionals use an online document system to securely upload and share information. It’s also important to ask about how your information will be kept safe from identity theft.
- Documents and Records Needed – ask about what records and documents you’ll need to get together. You may already be familiar with the usual forms (W-2, 1099, etc.), but depending on your situation there may be other records that are needed including business receipts.
- Responsibility of Return – please keep in mind that even when using a tax preparer, you’re still ultimately responsible for the return, and for filing on time.
If you’re evaluating using a tax professional, proactively asking a few questions can ensure you are maximizing the relationship and getting the best advice possible.
Benjamin F. Edwards does not provide tax advice, therefore it is also important to consult with your tax professional for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.