2010-01-28 / Features

When Choosing A Tax Preparer, Do Your Research

Many consumers hire tax preparers to complete their tax returns. When selecting an individual to help with their finances, trust is an important factor. According to a recent survey, more than 75 percent of Americans feel more confident in a job done by a CPA than if it were done by an accountant who is not a CPA.

Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) urges the public to consider several points before choosing someone to do their tax returns. These tips include the following:

Check the credentials of anyone claiming to be a licensed Pennsylvania CPA or public accountant. Verify licenses at www.licensepa.state.pa.us.

If your preparer isn’t a licensed CPA, ask what type of education and training they have in tax preparation.

Ask for an estimate of the fee before the return is prepared.

Avoid tax preparers who charge a percentage of the return as their fee.

Be leery of those who promise a big return before they prepare your tax forms.

Make sure your preparer has a protocol in place to protect your personal information, including Social Security number.

Avoid procrastination when choosing a preparer. There may be a good reason why a preparer is still available close to the April 15 deadline.

Avoid rapid refunds. Be sure to understand all the costs associated with this service.

When working with any tax preparer, PICPA encourages you to think about the following:

Always get a receipt for services provided.

Never sign a blank tax form, and do not sign in pencil.

Assemble the necessary documents – W-2s, Form 1099s – ahead of time.

Know the basic information that should be included on your tax return. By signing a return, you declare under penalty of perjury that the information is truthful. You will be responsible for any fraudulent or missing information.

Review the completed return and be sure that all tax information, your name, address, and Social Security number(s) are correct, and that none of these spaces is blank.

Most reputable preparers will ask clients a lot of questions and require receipts to be sure clients qualify for certain expenses and deductions. This is in the client’s best interest to avoid penalties from the IRS.

Consumers and small business owners with questions this tax season about choosing a tax preparer or anything else tax-related can get answers at www.picpa.org/consumertax. Here they will find access to important forms, brochures, articles, videos and much more. The page also includes a link to finding a local CPA through PICPAs. CPA Locator service and a link to PICPA’s free Ask a CPA service.

Return to top