While we can’t recommend specific accountants for you, sites such as http://www.accountant-finder.com/ have put together directories of accounting professionals across most localities. Use them in combination with the following guide in order to find a tax professional that suits your needs.
Taxpayers of all types can benefit from hiring a tax accountant. Before you spend your hard-earned cash, here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and find the right professional for your situation.
Understand Why You Need a Tax Accountant
You should take some time to focus on exactly what you need your tax accountant to do. Here are some common situations:
- Preparing your own taxes is time-consuming, stressful, or confusing.
- You want to make sure your tax returns are accurate.
- You need specialized advice and tips.
- You would like to pay as little taxes as possible, and need detailed planning and advice.
- You are facing a tax problem, such as filing back taxes, paying off a tax debt, or fighting an IRS audit.
- You run a business, invest in the stock market, own rental property, or live outside the United States.
Finding Tax Accountants
You should find an experienced tax accountant who specializes in the areas you need help with. Here are some tips for finding the right professional who has the specialized tax expertise you need:
- Referrals can be your best bet. Ask everyone you can think of: family, friends, business owners, financial advisers and attorneys. It will help to ask someone who has a similar tax situation to yours.
- Be wary of an accountant who promises you big refunds or that says you can deduct everything. You, not the accountant, are ultimately responsible for the information on your tax return.
- Do not be afraid to shop around or to change accountants if you are not comfortable.
- Retail tax franchises such as H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty Tax Service offer tax services for individuals who need to file relatively straight-forward tax returns. Some tax preparers will be more experienced than others, and you can sometimes find CPAs and Enrolled Agents working in these offices. (Here's a tip: Prices are often determined by how many tax forms need to be filled out. Ask if you can meet with a CPA, enrolled agent, or senior tax preparer. You'll pay the same, but you'll get to speak with a seasoned professional.)
- Local, independent tax firms often specialize in the tax needs of individuals and small businesses in their neighborhood. Again, some independent tax accountants will be more experienced than others. Ask if the firm has the expertise to handle your taxes.
Types of Accounting Professionals:
Enrolled Agents (EAs) are tax professionals who have passed a rigorous test and background check administered by the IRS. Enrolled agents often specialize and are best for complex tax situations.
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are accountants who have passed the rigorous CPA Exam and are licensed by the state they work in. CPAs will specialize in a specific area, such as audits, tax, or business consulting. CPAs are best at complex accounting work, and not all CPAs handle tax issues.
Tax Attorneys are lawyers who have chosen to specialize in tax law. Attorneys are best at complex legal matters, such as preparing estate tax returns or taking your case before the US Tax Court.
Along with finding a accounting professional, it’s important to keep track of your own finances. (Link to record keeping article)