By A.J. Gross, C.P.A., E.A.
1) Check the tax accountant’s PTIN. All tax accountants preparing tax returns must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You do not want your tax return to be prepared by a tax accountant without a PTIN.
2) Research your tax accountant. Verify the CPA’s license with the Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Verify the EA’s license with the IRS Office of Enrollment. Check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.
3) Understand tax preparation fees. There are two main ways tax accountants charge, the number of forms the accountant needs to prepare or the time it takes to prepare the tax return. Watch out for tax accountants that charge based on the size of your refund.
4) Tax accountants are not required to audit your tax records. However, your tax accountant should ask you questions about income, deductions and tax credits.
5) Ask to review your tax return with the tax accountant. Tax accountants are not perfect and mistakes happen. This is your last chance to insure the accuracy of your tax return.
6) Check the preparer signature line. All paid tax preparer must sign as the preparer on your return. Make sure the tax accountant’s PTIN is listed next to the tax preparer signature line.
7) Ask to e-file your tax return. E-filing your tax return is the quickest way to file the tax return. If you are owed a refund, you will get your refund within two weeks. Generally, most paid tax accountants must e-file all tax returns prepared.
8) Request a copy of your tax return. The tax accountant is required to provide their clients a copy of the prepared tax return. Ask your tax accountant for a copy of your tax return.
9) Never sign a blank tax return. It would be like signing a blank check. You will have no idea of what gets reported to the IRS.
10) Request tax support for the entire year. Check to see if you are able to contact the tax preparer throughout the year. You may not want a tax preparer that works during tax season but then is unavailable after tax season. You should have the option to contact your tax accountant if the IRS sends you a letter about your tax return.
IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: To the extent this writing contains advice on a federal tax issue, the advice is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed in this communication.
A.J. Gross, C.P.A., E.A. is President of ALG Tax Solutions. A.J. Gross can be contacted at AJGross@algtaxsolutions.com or www.ALGTaxSolutions.com.
This was printed in the February 23, 2014 - March 8, 2014 edition