A quality tax preparing accountant saves you time and money. In today’s post, we look into how you can pick the best accountant for your business or personal tax needs.
Ask For Recommendations
Many of your peers have accountants. Ask them where they go. Why?
Because, like any professional, most accountants have particular niches. They might specialize in helping freelancers with their taxes or focus on sorting the finances of a larger corporation.
Asking your peers is the easiest way to sort through the clutter to find an accountant. Imagine you wanted to find a doctor for your foot pain. You likely want a doctor that specializes in foot pain instead of one that specializes in hands.
It’s no different with accountants. Ask around; the best recommendations come from satisfied customers that have a similar set of needs as your own.
You want someone who understands your tax situation and can handle everything you may throw at them.
This is easier if you can communicate with them face to face. Sure, you could work with someone remotely and they might be able to help you figure out your taxes, but especially for freelancers and those in similarly complicated tax situations
Find Out If They’re Qualified
So how do you find out your potential accountant’s qualifications?
Start by asking for a Preparer Tax Identification Number. Anyone who prepares or assists in preparing federal tax returns for money must have a PTIN. Not only does this help you determine your potential preparer’s qualifications, but also, that number is required in order for the accountant to file your taxes on your behalf.
Now, it isn’t that hard to get a PTIN, so you’ll want to ensure that your potential tax preparer has one of the following qualifications:
CPA – Certified Public Accountant
Enrolled agent designation
Be sure that your accountant, at a minimum, has a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Even though it is technically not a requirement, the process of getting a CPA license is reasonably strict and requires that your accountant have a bachelor’s degree to even sit for the exam. If you happen to get audited, you’ll need a tax preparer with one of the above qualifications for them to represent you if you get audited
Beyond the PTIN number, degrees, and certification, you’ll also want to know how many years of experience they have filing taxes.
If you have a simple return, you require less experience. For those with complicated or unclear tax returns, you’ll want someone who has been navigating the system for longer.
Find Out How Much It’ll Cost You
The average accountant can cost between $100 and $175 an hour.
That can be a lot for a small business owner or freelancer. There are some things you’ll want to ask about before meeting with an accountant. In 2018, the average fee for preparing a tax return including an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and state tax return was $294.
Most of the best accountants charge an hourly rate but will look over your prior year’s taxes for free, or offer you a free consultation to start. Take these offers, as they will help you select the right fit for your tax needs.
Also, note their hourly rate if you get audited. You can expect to pay a qualified accountant $150/ hour to represent you if you’re audited.
Ensure They’ll E-File
This is simple. Every accountant should be e-filing at this point. The IRS requires any paid preparer to e-file if they do more than 10 returns. If they aren’t e-filing, maybe they’re not as experienced as you would like.