How do I Choose the Best Tax Return Preparer?

Keith Koons

There are a number of things to look for in a qualified tax return preparer, starting with his overall knowledge of the various laws and deductions that apply to individuals. While governments will not complain if a resident fails to claim various deductions that would reduce his tax liability, they are usually not as forgiving when it comes to errors. The right tax preparer will be thorough in ensuring there are no mistakes on his client's return. A good tax preparer will also be able to spot ways to save the taxpayer money by finding both credits and deductions that the average person would not know about.

A W-9 form, a type of US tax form.
A W-9 form, a type of US tax form.

Technically, anyone who fills out regional tax forms for a person or business is considered a tax return preparer, regardless of how much they actually know about the tax code. This means that a preparer could be a certified public accountant (CPA) or a person with absolutely no formal tax training. When it comes to basic tax returns, like those filed by students or low-income earners, it may not matter who completes the paperwork since it is basic. Families or those earning a higher level of income have many more deductions and credits to deal with, though, so a true professional should be sought in this situation.

Most regular employees in the US need a W-2 to complete their tax returns.
Most regular employees in the US need a W-2 to complete their tax returns.

Most regions allow a standard deduction that reduces the overall liability of money owed, but in many cases, the tax filer can save additional money by itemizing his deductible expenses. A novice tax return preparer would likely miss some or all of these exclusions. Even worse, if the tax return preparer claimed deductions that the resident is not eligible for, it could have legal ramifications. In almost every region in the world, the individual filing a tax return is responsible for the information contained within it, not the preparer. This means that even if a person had no idea that his return contained errors, he could be fined or even arrested.

For the above reasons alone, people should seek a tax return preparer that is associated with a major corporation. The cost of hiring this type of professional may be more, but he also usually offers a guarantee in writing that the tax forms are completed correctly. A good tax return preparer will also usually be able to file the returns with the region directly, which saves the consumer time and allows him to get a refund faster. Likewise, when money is owed to the government, a professional tax preparer knows how to request extensions and payment plans to lessen the burden on the citizen.

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