Learn the different types of tax professionals and how to chose the right one for you.
Different types of tax professionals. UNLIMITED REPRESENTATION RIGHTS Tax professionals with these credentials may represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals. Enrolled Agents – Licensed by the IRS. Enrolled agents are subject to a suitability check and must pass a three-part Special Enrollment Examination, which is a comprehensive exam that requires them to demonstrate proficiency in federal tax. They must complete 72 hours of continuing education every 3 years. Certified Public Accountants – Licensed by state boards of accountancy, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Certified public accountants have passed the Uniform CPA Examination. They have completed a study in accounting at a college or university and also met experience and good character requirements established by their respective boards of accountancy. In addition, CPAs must comply with ethical requirements and complete specified levels of continuing education in order to maintain an active CPA license. Attorneys – Licensed by state courts, the District of Columbia or their designees, such as the state bar. Generally, they have earned a degree in law and passed a bar exam. Attorneys generally have on-going continuing education and professional character standards. LIMITED REPRESENTATION RIGHTSThey may only represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed. They cannot represent clients whose returns they did not prepare and they cannot represent clients regarding appeals or collection issues even if they did prepare the return in question. Annual Filing Season Program Participants – This voluntary program recognizes the efforts of return preparers who are generally not attorneys, certified public accountants, or enrolled agents. It was designed to encourage education and filing season readiness. The IRS issues an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion to return preparers who obtain a certain number of continuing education hours in preparation for a specific tax year. PTIN Holders – Tax return preparers who have an active preparer tax identification number, but no professional credentials and do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program, are authorized to prepare tax returns. Beginning January 1, 2016, this is the only authority they have. They have no authority to represent clients before the IRS (except regarding returns they prepared and filed December 31, 2015, and prior).
So how do you choose a tax professional?
• Check the prepares qualifications. Search the IRS directory for a tax preparer with credentials. Go to irs.gov and in their search box type: search for tax return preparers. • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund or who offer bigger refunds than their competition. Flat fees usually will mean that they want to spend the least amount of time with you and might miss some deductions. A good preparer will base their fees based on the complication of your return (meaning how many forms are involved). In most cases these are the preparers that ask the right questions to make sure they don’t miss any forms. • Make sure the preparer is available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid fly-by-night preparers. • Ask if they e-file. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. Don’t choose someone who uses options like Turbo Tax to prepare your return and then prints it and asks you to mail it in. • Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax return. • Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them and not to the preparer’s bank account. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return. • Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN. RememberYou are responsible for your tax return. Even if you hired someone else to prepare it for you. You are responsible for the income and the expenses that were reported. You are responsible for providing supporting documentation for each expense.Keep all records for 7 years. Although I recommend 10 years. To find out more about the exclusive membership benefits go to www.financiallyintelligent.net
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