It’s tax time, and this time around, you’re going to get some assistance. But you don’t want to pick the wrong tax preparation service.
Every year during tax season, millions of taxpayers switch from DIY to a tax preparation service. And that makes sense! They’re easier, more convenient, and a heck of a lot less stressful than putting in days sorting through all those papers and forms by yourself.
Although tax-filing software is popular, it’s often not the best choice for many taxpayers. Professional tax preparation services carry a ton of benefits: more advanced tax software, greater expertise and training, and the ability to tackle complex finances with ease.
The trouble is that most people hate doing taxes so much that when they finally decide to hire a tax prep service, they just hire the first tax preparer they meet. But this is rarely the right move. Unless you’ve done your research, the first tax preparer you come across is probably not the right one.
So, how do you know if your tax preparation service is the wrong one?
If you’re trying to choose the worst tax preparation service possible, here’s what you should search for. If a tax preparation services carries these qualities, you can rest assured—you’re putting your taxes (and money) in the wrong hands.
The right tax professional is here to answer your questions throughout the tax filing process, so if you can never seem to get a hold of them, that’s a bad sign.
Of course, don’t expect 24/7 customer service when it comes to detailed tax questions—like a specific investment or deduction. After all, everyone needs sleep! But you should expect your tax prep service to be available during business hours, or at very least get back to you in a reasonable timeframe. A tax prep company that is worth its stuff will make a point to ensure you’re comfortable at every step of the process.
If you can’t seem to reach your tax preparation service, it might just be the wrong one for you.
The best tax preparation companies understand all tax laws, not just national policies. If your tax prep service isn’t well versed in your local tax laws, you’ve probably chosen the wrong one.
Tax codes can vary dramatically depending on your location. Your income taxes may be lower—or nonexistent—or a higher sales tax might impact the reportable income from your business. A good tax preparation service doesn’t just know that taxes vary from place to place, but instead, knows how to deploy them to maximize your benefits.
If your tax preparer is using you for insight into your local tax laws, you’ve hired the wrong one.
Good tax prep services are your advocate all year long. If your tax preparer isn’t going to be there on the off chance you get audited, you’re picking the wrong one.
Audits aren’t completely random, but they can still happen even if you’ve checked and double-checked your taxes. The ideal tax preparation service understands there’s always the chance you might be audited, and they consider it their responsibility to support you should that happen.
If your tax preparation service washes their hands of you once everything’s filed, you’ve definitely hired the wrong one!
Reputable tax prep services carefully maintain their legal standings and reputation. If your tax preparer doesn’t follow this basic standard, you need to steer clear.
We all know how to search out a company’s online reputation in the 21st century, but for a tax preparation service, a good professional standing is a part of that. Reviews on sites like Yelp or Facebook can be spotty, but organizations like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) can give a clear sense of how your tax preparer handles complaints. You should also search for your tax preparer’s Preparation Identification Number (PTIN), which indicates a person has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the IRS. It also carries its own ethical standards and ongoing education requirements.
If you can’t rely on your tax preparation service’s credentials, you may well have picked the wrong one.
Sometimes, knowing what to avoid can be every bit as useful as knowing what to seek out.
Every tax preparation company brings its own blend of services, prices, and support, and finding the right combination to match your goals is crucial. Recommendations can be useful, but do your own research so you feel comfortable with your choice—not just glad the decision is over! Once you feel like you’re on the same team as your tax preparation service, you can rest assured you’ve found the right one.
We may be biased, but we think picking the right tax preparation service is one of the most valuable financial decisions you can make. And if you do it right, you can enjoy that value for many years to come.