Preparing Tax Preparation Returns

How to Find the Best Tax Preparation Services in your Area

Completing your own taxes is time consuming and overwhelming. If you aren’t sure what you’re doing or you just don’t want to do them yourself, you need tax preparation services. While you could jump online and choose the first tax preparer the search engines give you, there are some considerations to make before choosing.

Your tax preparer will handle one of the most important aspects of your finances – your taxes. You want someone that will stand behind their work, operate within compliance, and offer you advice as needed.

So how do you find the best tax preparation services near you? Check out our tips below.

Start with the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers

Anyone with a tax preparer license can prepare your taxes, but don’t stop there. Look for tax preparers with credentials to handle more than filing your 1040. What would happen if you were audited or had to file an appeal? Only CPAs and enrolled agents may represent you with the IRS. Look for tax preparation services on the IRS list for the best protection.

Look for Experienced Tax Professionals

Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want a rookie working on your tax return, especially if you have special circumstances. Ideally, look for tax preparers with 7 – 10 years of experience.

Why so much? This gives them enough time to have experienced just about any circumstances that could occur and makes them more likely to be able to relate to your situation, no matter how unique.

Look at Fees

You’ll pay various fees depending on the tax preparation services you choose. If you have just a 1040 with itemized deductions, for example, you’ll pay between $165 – $488 depending on the state you live in. Every addition you have to the standard 1040, such as Schedule C, Form 709, or Form 1065 increases the fees accordingly.

Compare fees from several providers so you can choose the service that offers the lowest prices but also the best service.

Ask About Other Services

Tax preparation services should look beyond the traditional tax filing and help you moving forward. Ask a preparer what other services they provide. For example:

  • Do they help you figure out how to save money on taxes for the next tax year?
  • Do they have advice on things you could change to reduce your liability?
  • Do they help you understand your audit risk and protect you should it occur?
  • How do they handle errors or any communication from the IRS after the filing date?
  • Does the provider handle tax extensions? If so, how much do they charge?

Do your Research

Ask others who used the tax preparation services what they thought. Did the provider e-file or paper file? If he/she e-filed, it’s a sign that the preparer does more than 10 filings every tax year. If the preparer paper filed, it could be a sign that he/she isn’t as experienced as you thought.

Also, ask about the preparer signing their returns. By law, tax preparers must sign your 1040 below your signature stating that they prepared your taxes. Only sign your tax return after the preparer completed your tax returns. If anyone says the preparer asked him/her to sign the taxes before they were complete, look the other way.

Ask Around in any Networking Groups you Belong To

You’d be surprised how often people are willing to share the name of their tax preparation services when they are happy. If you are in a network of people in the same industry as you, it may even give you more reassurance that you’re choosing the right person based on their experience.

Narrow down your options

Once you’ve made a list of potential tax preparers near you, it’s time to zero in on who’s best. Here’s what to do:

Verify their credentials

If you got the tax preparer’s name from the IRS, your state board of accountancy, a state CPA society, or the NAEA, their credentials are most likely legitimate. But if you obtained the name through a referral, it’s a good idea to find out whether the person really holds the certifications they claim to have.

Forty-seven states (plus Washington, DC), Puerto Rico, and Guam participate in CPA Verify, an online repository of information about licensed CPAs and public accounting firms. Search the CPA Verify database or your state’s board of accountancy website to verify the credentials of a CPA. You can double-check the status of an EA at EATax.org.

Read online reviews

Look at your potential CPA or tax preparer’s website and social media accounts to see what sorts of things they post. Read online reviews on Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, Thervo, and Facebook. Google their name to see what comes up—and scroll through the first few pages of search results to make sure nothing is buried.

Anybody who works with the public probably has a negative online review from a disgruntled client. But if your research uncovers red flags such as a pattern of client complaints, unprofessional social media posts, or an arrest record, move on to your next candidate.

Make an appointment

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list to the most promising prospects, reach out and ask them to meet in person as soon as possible. But be warned: If you wait to make an appointment until the 2020 tax season is well underway, you may have a hard time finding someone who has time to sit down with you. Set up a meeting in January or February, if possible, even if you don’t have all of your tax documents ready.

Finding Experienced Tax Preparation Services Providers

It is a pretty well known fact that the income tax law in the US is quite complicated. Companies that offer tax preparation services do a great service for companies and professionals to perform a complex task in a fraction of the price as compared to in-house professionals.

Here are some details:

1.  It makes sense to go for someone who has been in the trade for several years. Business owners can ill-afford to take a risk for something as important as filing tax returns, making it safer to go for an experienced provider only.

2. Check with your service provider how long it has been in the industry. Someone with more than two to three years of experience in providing tax preparation services will be ideal for the task.

3. Ask how much tax has a tax preparation service providers concerned have been filed until now.

4. Check what types of taxes have been raised by a tax preparation service provider of your choice in the past. Does it have enough experience in filing income tax for estates, trusts, sales tax, payroll tax, business income tax and personal income tax?

Market Reputation

Before you hire a CPA or tax service provider, check for their market reputation, reviews, and testimonials. One of the best ways of judging the tax preparation services provider is by checking their customer reviews. There are various websites which would offer you with the unbiased customer reviews. You can check for reviews on Yelp and some other similar websites.

Service Type

Before hiring a tax preparation services provider, make sure you check the services they offer. There might be some tax preparation service provider, who don’t have knowledge about your field and could lead you in the wrong direction. You must look for a CPA firm which provides you one stop solution to all your bookkeeping and tax filing requirements. It is always a major concern when a business distributes tasks among different firms. Distributing bookkeeping, payrolls, tax filing tasks to different firms always creates coordination issues and cause delays.

Your Budget

Considering your budget while hiring a tax preparation services provider is important. If you have a set budget, then you can narrow your search and can find the suitable consultant easily.

These are some of the things which you can consider while hiring a professional tax preparation services provider. A professional tax preparation services provider would not just relieve you from the lengthy paperwork but also would complete the documentation in the right way.

You may be able to get tax preparation help free.

If your household income was low to moderate for your community or you’re at least 50 years old, you might not have to pay anything for tax help. The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide service will pair you with trained volunteers who can handle Form 1040 and schedules A and B.

Another option is to hire an enrolled agent. Unlike CPAs, who can handle a variety of financial services, enrolled agents focus solely on taxes. They must have worked for the IRS for at least five years or passed exams on tax codes and calculations. Enrolled agents might work for themselves or at a CPA firm or storefront office. You can search for one at the National Association of Enrolled Agents website.