Taxes are complicated. If you’re getting frustrated or confused using tax software to prepare your own return, it may be time to hire a professional – someone who can save you time and money.
You’re ultimately responsible for what is submitted on your tax return, even if someone else prepares it for you – so don’t take your choice of a tax preparer lightly. If you own a business or have a lot of business expenses, you can ask your colleagues for a referral. You can also ask family and friends who they use.
Here are some good questions to ask a prospective CPA:
- Do you have any other clients like me?
- Will you be working directly with me?
- What is the average response time to emails or calls?
- What fees will be charged, and what is the overall billing process?
- Will you help if I get an IRS notice?
- Do you provide year-round services like financial planning?
Here are some red flags to avoid:
- The person charges fees based on a percentage of your refund.
- S/he promises larger refunds than competitors.
- S/he doesn’t ask for a copy of last year’s return, completes your return without giving you a copy, or asks you to sign a blank return.
CPAs are licensed by the state and must comply with strict professional ethical standards, as well as meet demanding continuing education requirements.