Tax Tip Tuesday: Working With a Tax Preparer

Feb 21, 2023

By Ashlee Ogrzewalla, CFP®, Vice President and Manager of Financial Planning & Marketing
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For many people, preparing and filing their tax returns can be time-consuming and difficult. On top of an already complex tax code, keeping up with various annual adjustments – such as earnings thresholds, deductions, etc. – and understanding and evaluating the potential impact of tax changes can be daunting. These challenges may have you thinking about partnering with a tax professional. And if you’re a business owner, your situation may be even more complex.

Working with a tax professional may offer various benefits, including saving time and catching mistakes. They can also 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 essential to consider several factors:

  • Hire the Right Tax Professional – Individuals who prepare tax returns can have various levels of education, experience, and qualifications, including Enrolled Agents and Certified Public Accountants (CPA). CPAs may handle more complex situations and must complete detailed studies in accounting and 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:
  • Evaluate and Understand Fees – Tax professionals typically charge based on the complexity of your return. These fees are based on several factors, including schedules or additional forms required to complete the return. Costs may include flat fees, a percentage of your refund, 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? Can they meet your expectations (if any) on filing? 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 filing). Either way, it’s essential to be on the same page.
  • Sharing Documents – Discuss and understand the process used to share documents and review draft tax returns. Many tax professionals use an online document system to upload and share information securely. It’s also important to ask how they plan to protect you from identity theft.
  • Documents and Records Needed – Ask about what records and documents you’ll need to gather. You may already know the usual forms (W-2, 1099, etc.). Still, depending on your situation, other records may be needed. For example, business receipts, evidence of charitable contributions, property taxes paid, and account statements are a few common additional documents needed for those who choose to itemize instead of taking the standard deduction.
  • Responsibility of Return – Please remember that even when using a tax preparer, you’re still ultimately responsible for the return and filing on time.

If you’re evaluating whether or not to use a tax professional, proactively asking a few questions can ensure you maximize the relationship and get the best advice possible.


Benjamin F. Edwards does not provide legal or tax advice, therefore it is also important to consult with your legal and tax professionals for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.