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Press Release

Six Questions You NEED to Ask When Hiring a Tax Return Preparer

Alonza Robertson
Published Date:
Mar 14, 2013
NEW YORK – (March 14, 2013) - The spread of “do-it-yourself” tax-filing software and seasonal tax return preparers has created a confusing array of options for individuals and small business owners when it comes to filing their taxes. With a month to go before this year’s tax filing deadline, The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) has compiled a list of questions individuals and small business owners shouldask a tax return preparer before hiring him/her to prepare and file their taxes.

Tax Return Preparer Question Checklist
1. What are your credentials?
Only a CPA, enrolled agent, tax attorney or paid tax return preparer can file your tax return on your behalf. While all of these professionals can perform a similar service, their qualifications can vary. A CPA must have a college degree, totaling more than 150 hours of education, pass a rigorous exam and have one year of experience in an accounting-related position before being able to obtain a CPA license. Tax attorneys must meet all of the requirements set by their state bar association in addition to taking specialized courses dealing with tax law. Enrolled agents and tax return preparers must pass a special exam and meet certain annual continuing education requirements.
2. What are your fees/What can I expect to get back on my return?
Before agreeing to hire anyone to file your taxes, you should first make sure you have agreed upon a clear fee schedule with the professional preparer. Make sure you read through all of the preparer’s fee guidelines before signing on the dotted line. The IRS also cautions taxpayers to be wary of return preparers who boast of obtaining larger refunds than others and to avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of the refund.
3. Can you represent me in front of the IRS in case of an audit or other legal action?
Only CPAs, attorneys, and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other tax return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns that they actually prepared.
4. Do you offer electronic filing (e-file)?
All accountants and paid tax return preparers who file more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, (unless the preparer or a particular return is administratively exempt from the e-file requirement or the return is filed by a preparer with an approved hardship waiver).Even if a returned is e-filed, the preparer is required to provide a copy of the return to the client.
5. Must I bring all my documentation to support my deductions when my return is prepared?
Your preparer should know that you are solely responsible for the contents of your return and should the return be selected for audit, such documentation may be required.
6. Are you registered with the IRS and New York State to prepare my taxes?
Before a paid tax preparer furnishes a 2012 tax return to a client, he/she needs to have registered with the IRS for a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The PTIN requirement also applies to attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents who prepare tax returns.