Wednesday, January 22, 2014
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN - CHOOSING A TAX PREPARER
Let me once again join my fellow tax bloggers by summarizing my advice on choosing a tax preparer.
* IMEO (experienced, not humble), you really should not use a “fast food” tax preparation chain, like Henry and Richard, to prepare your tax return. Fast food tax preparation chains ain’t cheap, and they certainly do not provide the quality of service that an individual independent tax professional does. See my post from last January “Just Say No to Henry and Richard”.
* Contrary to the popular “urban tax myth”, unfortunately perpetuated by uninformed journalists and bloggers, just because a person has the initials “CPA” after his/her name does not mean that he/she knows his arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to preparing 1040s.
* Only those individuals who possess the IRS-issued “EA” (Enrolled Agent), “RTRP” (Registered Tax Return Preparer), and privately administered ATP (Accredited Tax Preparer) and ATA (Accredited Tax Advisor) designations have demonstrated competency in 1040 preparation by passing a test (varying levels of difficulty), and (except for RTRP) are required to remain current in 1040 law by taking continuing professional education (CPE) in federal income taxes each year.
* An “EA” is NOT an employee, representative, or “agent” of the Internal Revenue Service. An “EA” is an independent tax professional who has passed a very comprehensive and difficult test in federal tax knowledge.
* Just because a tax professional does not have any of the above listed initials after his/her name does not mean that he/she is less expert in taxes than those who do. There are many, many “unenrolled” preparers who are educated, experienced, knowledgeable, and current in 1040 preparation.
* Do not use a preparer (1) who has not registered with the IRS and received a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), (2) will not sign the finished return, or (3) whose fee is a percentage of your refund.
* And, of course, no tax preparation software is a substitute for knowledge of the tax code. And no tax preparation software is a substitute for the services of a trained tax professional! Garbage-in, garbage-out says it all.
The best way to find a tax preparer for your specific situation is to ask friends, family, and co-workers or colleagues for referrals.
The usual disclaimer - it may actually be possible that the best tax preparer, at the best price, for your particular situation is either a CPA or an H+R Block, or other fast-food chain, employee. But this is only because of the education, experience, ability, temperament, and other factors that are specific to that individual preparer.