For Immediate Release
Contact: Gigi Thompson Jarvis
Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Tax Professional
Washington, DC, (January 27, 2014) Although you may not have received all of your tax documents yet, it’s not too early to start looking for someone to prepare your tax return. Remember, not all tax preparers are created equal. So, when shopping around, ask yourself a few important questions:
1. What kind of tax preparer should I look for?
Enrolled agents (EAs), certified public accountants (CPAs), attorneys, commercial firms, and seasonal tax preparers are popular choices for tax preparation. However, only EAs, CPAs and attorneys can represent a taxpayer before the IRS. It is important for taxpayers to find a qualified tax professional to prepare and file their return. The money you may save using an unqualified preparer could be overshadowed by the tax you may pay if the unqualified preparer is unfamiliar with current, legitimate tax deductions and credits.
Enrolled agents are qualified tax professionals. Many states have no special licensing laws for tax preparers, but enrolled agents receive their authority from the federal government. “Enrolled” refers to the fact that the federal government licenses these professionals. They are “agents” because they are authorized to appear in place of a taxpayer in dealing with IRS audits, collections, or appeals. Enrolled agents earn their credential by passing a comprehensive exam administered by the IRS that covers individual, business, estate and trust taxation, representation and more.
2. Is the tax preparer knowledgeable and up-to-date?
Members of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) are required to complete 30 hours of continuing professional education each year to maintain membership. This surpasses the IRS licensing requirement of 24 hours per year. Continuing education ensures that EAs keep abreast of constantly changing tax laws and regulations. EAs are also experienced in areas such as tax and financial planning, estate and trust services, small business consultation and more.
3. Is the tax preparer bound by any ethical standards?
Enrolled agents are required to abide by U.S. Treasury Department Circular 230 that details the standards of professional conduct. EAs that violate the provisions of Circular 230 may be suspended or disbarred from practice. EAs are also subject to vigorous background checks before they receive their license.
4. What are your needs?
Are you sure that you are getting all of the eligible deductions or tax credits? Perhaps it’s been awhile since you filed a tax return. Maybe you are one of the millions of Americans who started their own businesses and this is the first time you are filing a business return. Enrolled agents prepare millions of tax returns each year and are an excellent resource for anyone seeking up-to-date information on all tax related issues.
Visit the “Find an EA” directory on www.naea.org to find a qualified enrolled agent in your area who can assist you with tax planning, preparing tax returns, or resolving a problem with the IRS.