Know what expertise you need
Do you need someone to do your personal or business taxes? Did you buy or sell property during the year, earn income from multiple states, sell investments or inherit part of an estate? All of these situations require specialized tax knowledge.
QUESTIONS TO ASK PREPARERS
What training have you received in preparing tax returns?
A qualified preparer should know the tax code inside and out. Ask if he has earned any credentials, taken advanced tax training, or is affiliated with a professional organization that requires members to take continuing education and be accountable to a code of ethics.
How long have you been in business?
Many tax preparation services operate for a few months each year. Ideally, your tax professional should know your entire financial situation and be available year round to develop tax-saving strategies for you.
What is your process?
Good preparers will explain their process in detail and commit to a date when your return will be done. They also meet with clients at least twice—once to gather basic information and again to review the return before it is filed.
Who will prepare my return?
Ask to meet any person that will work on your return. Ideally, one person should do all of the work and be available to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Can you provide references?
Ask for a list of current clients whose situations are similar to yours. Inquire about the preparer’s accuracy, professionalism, and if they are prompt in returning calls and getting the work done.
What is your philosophy about deductions and credits?
Some preparers are very aggressive in their approach, and this can lead to a higher risk of an audit. Others may overlook legitimate deductions or credits that could save you money. Avoid preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. Qualified preparers all should get similar results for the same return.
How will you be paid?
Some preparers charge a flat fee for completing returns while others may charge by the form or hourly if your situation is more complex. Avoid preparers who guarantee results or charge based on a percentage of the total refund.
Can you represent me if I am audited by the IRS?
Only CPAs, attorneys, and IRS enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all tax-related matters. Ask preparers if they would pay penalties for errors they or their associates make on your return.
As a final step, check to see if the preparer has been reported for any fraudulent practices. Good resources include the local Better Business Bureau, Ohio Attorney General’s office, Accountancy Board of Ohio or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for enrolled agents.
For more tax tips or to find a CPA for your specific tax needs, visit FinancialFitnessOhio.com or call 888.959.1212.
The Ohio Society of CPAs, established in 1908, represents more than 23,000 CPAs in business, education, government and public accounting. The Ohio Society’s members not only meet statutory and regulatory requirements as CPAs, but also embrace the highest standards of professional and ethical performance. This is achieved through ongoing professional education, comprehensive quality review and compliance with a strict Code of Professional Conduct.