Finding the right tax professional who is able to find you every deduction, credit, and write-offs can oftentimes seem like an impossible task, but it doesn't have to be. Local tax professionals who operate a small business and national tax preparation companies each come with their own list of pro's and con's and being aware of them before making your decision can go a long way towards maximizing your tax return and/or minimizing your tax liabilities.
Local Tax Professionals
A local tax professional can be a great option for individuals for various reasons. Some people like their personal touch and relationship building that comes along with going to the same tax professional every year while others like the discounts that come along with shopping local.
If you live in a town with more than a few thousands people then you have probably seen dozens, if not hundreds, of commercials by local tax professionals trying to entice you to use them for your all of your tax needs. They may offer discounts or guaranteed returns, but the most important thing to do before reaching out to any individual tax preparation business is to determine if they a Preparer Tax Identification Number. This number is given to professionals by the Internal Revenue Service and it certifies that they are legally able to prepare your taxes.
Once you have verified that they are legally able to prepare your taxes then it's important to do your research to find the right professional. Some tax professionals specialize in various aspects of the tax code, so make sure the professional you choose will be able to fit your needs.
The IRS encourages you to complete a ten point checklist before having an individual tax preparer complete your taxes:
- Check the preparer’s qualifications
- Check the preparer’s history
- Ask about service fees
- Ask to E-file your return
- Ensure the preparer is available to answer any questions or concerns that arise
- See if they ask you to provide any records and receipts
- Never sign a blank tax form
- Review your return before signing anything
- Ensure your tax preparer signs your tax form and includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PITN)
- Immediately report any suspected foul play or abuse to the IRS
As you can see, doing your due diligence can go a long way towards making sure you tax filing is as smooth as possible if you choose to use a local tax professional.
National Tax Preparation Companies
Many individuals also choose one of the many national tax companies for their filing needs and it's not difficult to see why. These companies have a proven track record and going to one takes much of the hardship of researching for the right tax preparer away. However, it's still important to do your due diligence before making your appointment with one of these national chains because workers at these companies still have various levels of experience, credentials, and specialties that can have a big impact on your tax outcome.
If you decide to use a large tax preparation company then you will need to be up front with them about certain things when you make an appointment so they can pair you with the right professional. For example, it's important to inform these companies if you are a private contractor or an hourly/salaried employee before you make your appointment because some professionals have more experience working with the former. The safest bet is to be as upfront with them about what you're looking for before going to file your taxes so they are able to pair you with someone who will work best for you.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways for you to file your taxes and which avenue you decide is dependent on your needs and priorities. Just make sure to do your research and never give away any personal information before obtaining your tax professionals Preparer Tax Identification Number.