Because of the complexities of tax laws in the United States, many Americans still turn to tax preparation specialists for help filing their annual returns.
With a massive new federal tax law now in place, even more people may need at least temporary help with their taxes in the next few years.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer taken verbatim from the IRS website:
Check to be sure the preparer has a PTIN. All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask the preparer if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.
Check the preparer's history. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For enrolled agents, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment. (Enrolled agents are licensed by the IRS and are specifically trained in federal tax planning, preparation and representation.) For certified public accountants, check with the state board of accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar association. Ask about service fees.
Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically.
Make sure the preparer is available. Make sure you'll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return - even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They'll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
Never sign a blank return. Don't use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.
Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you're comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.