Top Traits of an Ethical Tax Prep Professional

With tax season just around the corner, now is a good time to locate a tax prep professional if you plan on having them prepare and file your tax return. If you’ve used the DIY approach in the past, finding a good tax pro can be intimidating. Keep in mind these tips when looking for a qualified tax pro:

Fee structure: An ethical tax pro won’t base their fees on refund percentages, or promise a large refund. Some tax pros will be charge a flat fee based on the complexity of your return, while others may bill at an hourly rate. Always ask about their fee structure up front so there will be no surprises on tax filing day.

In good standing: Always check with the Better Business Bureau and avoid tax pros who have bad reviews or numerous consumer complaints against them. If your tax pro is an IRS Enrolled Agent, verify this with the IRS Office of Enrollment. Unfortunately, it can take up to 60 days to process a verification request through the Office of Enrollment, so it’s best to start your search early.

Confirm they have a PTIN: Licensed tax pros must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) in order to prepare and file a return on your behalf. It’s also a good idea to ask if they participate in continuing education courses or other forms of professional development.

E-filing: A seasoned tax pro will have the capability of e-filing your returns. Any tax pro who has filed more than 10 returns is required to use the e-filing system.

Availability after tax day: An ethical tax pro is available after tax day for any questions on your return, or to help you follow up with the IRS, or to address any refund issues or questions on your return. Beware of a tax pro who isn’t available after you file your taxes.

They’re willing to wait: If your tax pro offers to file a return based only on your final paystub and not your W2, they’re in violation of IRS e-filing regulations. An ethical tax pro will ask to see all of your tax records, and if your W2 isn’t yet available, they will be willing to wait until you have your W2 and any other year-end tax records.

On Monday: A look at the different tax pros who can file a return on your behalf.


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