Tax Tips: Choosing a Paid Preparer

Are you going to prepare and file your own taxes – or hire a pro to do it for you?

Choosing a good Paid Preparer can be tricky, but it’s super important to get it right. The person you hire to prepare your taxes has access to all your personal information, and that’s some private stuff! You don’t want just ANYBODY to have access to it.

Here are four questions to ask your Paid Preparer – and the answers they should give you:

      1. Do you have a PTIN and will you use it to sign my tax return?
        Yes. Anyone paid to preparer federal taxes is supposed to have a PTIN and they are required to sign all tax forms they prepare with that PTIN. Choose a preparer who doesn’t mind if the IRS knows who they are.
      2. What kinds of documents do you need from me to prepare my taxes?
        A good preparer will require all records, receipts, tax documents, W2, 1099 and more and they won’t take short cuts. A Preparer who understands your (trucking) business may also ask for depreciation records and copies of all other taxes (IFTA, 2290, DMV fees) you pay. Choose a preparer who understands your business and knows about the deductions you quality for.
      3. Can I review my return before I sign it?
        Yes. Never sign a blank return, or agree to submit your return on paper or electronically without your signature.  An IRS approved paid preparer needs your signature on the 1040 (and on the 8453 or 8879 if you e-file) for their own records to be compliant with IRS rules. Be sure you understand all the information on your form, and ask your preparer questions if you don’t. Choose a preparer who is happy to answer your questions clearly.
      4. Will you be around if I have questions about this return later in the year, or to help me if the IRS audits me?
        Yes. Choose a paid preparer who will back you up – and remember they are really backing up their own work. They prepared and signed your Form 1040 after all – and even though you are always legally responsible for your own tax form, they still played a part.

These are just basic tips so use your gut too. If you get a bad feeling about somebody, or don’t like their office, or don’t like the way they answer your questions, go somewhere else. Choose somebody you can be comfortable with.

Written by Casey Bullard

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