How to Find the Best Tax Advisor in the City

How to Find the Best Tax Advisor in the City

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Looking for the best tax advisor in the city? Finding the right one can be a daunting task, especially with all the complexities of tax laws and regulations. But fear not! In this article, we’ll guide you on how to locate the perfect tax advisor to meet your needs in 2023. Whether you’re an individual or a business owner, having a skilled tax advisor can save you time, money, and headaches. We’ll explore the key factors to consider, such as qualifications, experience, reputation, and client reviews. By the end, you’ll have the tools to confidently find the best tax advisor in your city this year. Let’s get started!

You’re not the only one who cringes at the thought of doing their own taxes and wonders how to find a good certified public accountant (CPA) or tax planner. The I.R.S. says that about 58 percent of the more than 138 million tax returns that were e-filed by November 22, 2023 (for the 2022 tax year) were done by a tax expert.

Wirecutter, a site owned by the New York Times that reviews products, has found that hiring a CPA or tax pro can help you avoid the time-consuming and often frustrating job of figuring out I.R.S. rules and forms. But if you hire the wrong person, it can hurt you more than help you.

Also Read: Tax Deductions Guide: 20 Popular Breaks

Why You Need to be Careful When Choosing a C.P.A

The I.R.S. makes a “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams every year. Even though the scams are very different, many of them involve dishonest tax preparers doing things like offering bigger refunds than they can give, making up deductions and credits, or telling clients to avoid paying taxes.

Unfortunately, almost anyone can get paid to do tax work. Most states have few or no certification, training, or even competency testing standards.

How do you find someone you can trust? Let us show you how to find a suitable CPA or tax accountant near you in three steps.

Step 1: Compile a List Of Potential C.P.A.S And Tax Accountants

As with most service providers, asking for a recommendation is a great way to find a CPA or accountant. But don’t just pick the first name you hear. Write down the names of three or four possible accountants. This is how:

Ask your family, friends, and coworkers for recommendations.

Dan Henn, a certified public accountant in Rockledge, Florida, says that most of his work comes from word of mouth.

Mr. Henn said, “Ask your family, friends, business partners, coworkers, lawyer, financial advisor, or banker.” “Find out who they work with and if they’ve been happy with them.”

CPAs and accountants usually focus on small business owners, high-net-worth individuals, or clients who work in certain fields. So, Mr. Henn says you should ask people you know who have similar needs. “For example, if you’re a doctor, talk to other doctors and ask them who they use,” he said.

Also Read: 3 Powerful Reasons Why A Small Business Should Do Tax Planning

Search the I.R.S. Directory

A preparer tax identification number, or P.T.I.N., is the one thing that every paid tax worker needs to have. Anyone can apply for a P.T.I.N. online for free, so a P.T.I.N. alone doesn’t show how skilled or experienced someone is.

But the I.R.S. keeps a list of people with a P.T.I.N. who have current credentials that the I.R.S. recognizes. These people include C.P.A.s, enrolled agents (E.A.s), and lawyers. People who have finished the Annual Filing Season Program, which is a set of free classes on federal tax law and ethics, are also in the directory. You can use the ZIP code search to find a CPA or other qualified tax professional near you.

Check With Your State or National Associations

Many state boards of accounting and state CPA groups list their members online or can give you a list of tax experts in your area if you ask. Not every CPA does taxes, so you might need to do some study online or give them a call to find out if they can help you with the kind of taxes you need.

E.A.s are tax advisor and professionals who are licensed by the federal government and are allowed to give advice, represent clients, and file tax returns for both individuals and businesses. A list of E.A.s is kept by the National Association of Enrolled Agents (N.A.E.A.). You can search the directory by region, specialty, language, years of experience, and more.

Consider Free Tax-Preparation Resources

If you make less than $56,000 a year or are 60 or older, you might want to look into the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (T.C.E.) programs to help you fill out your tax return.

These programs are paid for by the IRS and run by volunteers who have been trained to help people with basic tax prep for free. If you are qualified, you can use the VITA/T.C.E. locator tool to find a provider near you.

The I.R.S. says that most VITA and T.C.E. sites won’t show up in your search results until about three weeks before they’re set to start. If you look for a spot outside of mid-January to April, it may be hard to find one close to you.

Check the I.R.S.’s list of what to bring to your tax meeting before you go once you’ve found a place.

Also Read: Cryptocurrency and Taxes: What You Need to Know

Step 2: Limit Your Choices

Once you’ve made a list of possible tax advisor in your area, it’s time to choose the best one. What you should do is:

Check Their Documents

If the I.R.S., your state board of accountancy, a state C.P.A. society, or the NAEA gave you the tax preparer’s name, their qualifications are probably real. But if the name came from a recommendation, you should check to see if the person has the certifications they say they have.

C.P.A. Verify is an online database with information about licensed C.P.A.s and public accounting companies. It is used by 47 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. If you want to check a C.P.A.’s qualifications, you can go to cpaverify.org or the website of your state’s Board of Accountancy.

At EATax.org, you can double-check the state of an E.A.

Check Out Reviews Online

Check out the website and social media accounts of a possible CPA or tax preparer to see what kinds of things they post online. Read reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, and Thervo. Google their name to see what comes up, and make sure to look through the first few pages of results to make sure nothing is hidden.

Anyone who works with the public has probably gotten a bad review from a client who wasn’t happy with their service. But if your research turns up red flags, like a pattern of complaints from clients, posts on social media that aren’t professional, or a criminal record, move on to the next prospect.

Set Up A Meeting

Now that you’ve picked out the most potential prospects from your list, reach out to them as soon as possible and ask to meet in person. But beware: if you wait to make an appointment until the 2020 tax season is well underway, it may be hard to find someone who has time to sit down with you. Set up a meeting as soon as possible, even if you don’t have all of your tax papers ready yet.

Step 3: Interview a Prospective C.P.A

Bring a copy of your most recent tax return with you when you meet with a possible accountant. One of the best ways for a tax pro to look at your case and give you an idea of how much they might charge is to look at your most recent tax return.

Be ready to tell you’re possible accountant about any big changes in your life in the past year, like if you got married (or divorced), bought a rental property, or started a business.

Here are some important things you should ask at your meeting:

Since when have you been doing tax work?

If your tax return isn’t too complicated, someone with just a few years of training should be able to handle it. But if your return is difficult or you’ve had problems with the IRS in the past, you might want someone with more experience.

Do you have any specialties?

If you have unique needs, like if you own a small business, rental property, or foreign investments, you should work with someone who specializes in helping people like you.

How do you bill for your services?

At this first meeting, the accountant might not be able to give you an exact price, but they should be able to give you an estimate, especially if you show them your tax return from last year. Find out if they charge a flat fee or an hourly rate. Either is fine, as long as you get an idea of how much it will cost to have your return done.

Are you open to questions outside of tax season? 

Some tax preparers set up shop during tax season but leave soon after April 15. A seasonal tax agent won’t be much help if something goes wrong after you file your return or if you need help planning for next year. Look for someone who is free all year.

Who will prepare my return? 

If the accountant works for a company, the person you meet with may not be the one who prepares your tax return. Instead, they may give it to an associate with less experience and just check their work. This can help you keep costs down, but you should still know who’s doing the work.

Also Read: Mastering Sales Tax Compliance for E-Commerce Businesses

Look Outside Where You Live as a Bonus Step

If you can’t find a tax preparer or CPA in your area that you feel safe working with, you might want to look elsewhere. Even though many people like to meet in person, you don’t have to stick to CPAs and tax experts in your town.

Mr. Henn said that many of his clients don’t feel comfortable giving their personal financial information to a tax agent in their own town, so they work with someone in another city or state. “You can work with accountants anywhere in the country because of technology like Skype and Zoom, secure portals, and electronic filing,” he said. It might be time to decide how important that face-to-face relationship is to you.

No matter who helps you fill out your tax form, remember that you are responsible for what it says. Never sign a tax return without first making sure it is correct. If you don’t understand something, ask the person making the food to explain it. When you sign your return, with a pen or with a computer, you swear under penalty of perjury that it is full and correct. Take the time to find a good tax pro and look over their work carefully to make tax time less stressful.

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