Tax season is almost here. Dun, dun, dun!
Although it’s a dreaded time for many, tax season doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right CPA or accounting firm on your side, you can rest easy knowing that you’re in good hands.
Of course, you could do your taxes yourself, and there are plenty of programs that make it easy. However, there are many reasons why you might want to consider hiring a tax professional. If working with an accounting firm is the right option for your needs, you’ll want to ensure that you find the right one.
There’s a lot on the line when it comes to hiring a CPA. Working with the right CPA could make the difference between owing money and getting a tax refund, so it’s worth your time to be mindful about who you hire.
6 tips for finding the right CPA
#1. Figure out what kind of tax specialist you need
Before you start your search for a CPA, you need to know exactly what kind of tax specialist you’ll need. If your situation isn’t too complicated, you probably don’t need to worry too much about finding a CPA who specializes in anything in particular. On the other hand, if you’re facing a complicated situation, like an audit, you need a tax specialist who can get you through it.
CPAs are just one type of tax professional you could choose to work with. If you’re preparing a tax return for an estate, you may need to consult a tax attorney. Or, if the situation you’re dealing with is overly complex, an EA (Enrolled Agent), who has to pass rigorous tests, can help with things, like audits and collection actions.
#2. Know where to look
Finding a CPA can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to look. As I said, there’s a lot on the line when hiring a tax specialist, as it affects whether or not you get a refund, as well as how much that refund is. There are a lot of places you could look for a CPA, but only a couple of places you should look.
With so much at stake, you don’t want to risk looking for a CPA in the phone book or in even in a Google search, at least without further research. One of the best places to start in your search for a local CPA is a personal recommendation from a friend or coworker. The one downside to this, though, is that a personal recommendation is only about one CPA and only gives you a glimpse of one experience.
Searching for a CPA with Top Rated Local® will allow you to get an instant look at several accounting firms’ overall online reputations and compare them side by side. You’ll also be able to read a firm’s reviews across all of the verified sites it’s listed on.
#3. Pick the right size firm
The general rule is that the bigger the accounting firm, the more likely it will have higher fees and have less time to dedicate to working on your return. That’s not to say that it’s never a good idea to hire a bigger accounting firm, but you’re likely to get more personalized service if you work with a local tax professional.
On the other hand, small accounting firms may not have the diverse talent and experience necessary to get through your return if it’s complicated. In this situation, you might be better off choosing a bigger firm.
#4. Verify that they have a PTIN
Anyone who is compensated for preparing income taxes, or assisting in preparing income taxes is required by the IRS to have a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to someone who has volunteered to help you prepare your taxes. But, if you’re paying someone to do your taxes, you’ll need to ensure that they have a PTIN because they’ll need to include it on your tax return.
#5. Ask the right questions
Before you commit to working with someone to do your taxes, you need to speak with them ahead of time. This could be done through an email, over the phone or in person. When you speak with them, make sure that you ask the right questions. These include:
- How much experience do you have working with people in my situation?
- Do you specialize in any tax issues in particular?
- Does the work get done by you personally or your in-house assistants, or does it get outsourced?
- How are your fees calculated — flat fee, hourly or another rate option?
- Are your fees negotiable?
- Approximately how long do you expect it to take for you to finish my taxes?
#6. Watch out for red flags
There are many different CPAs out there who you could choose to work with. Often, you can tell if someone isn’t right for your needs right off the bat when you know which red flags to watch out for. Here are a few common ones:
- They promise that you’ll get a big refund before even looking at your information.
- They promise that they can get you a bigger return than other tax professionals
- They promise that you’ll be able to make certain deductions before looking at your information
- Their fee is a percentage of your refund
- They’re not prepared to provide you with support if you’re audited
- They don’t have the appropriate credentials
Find the right CPA with Top Rated Local!
When you’re ready to search for a CPA near you, start with Top Rated Local. You’ll be able to find the best-reviewed accounting firms in your area, compare them side by side, read CPA reviews from across the web from one place and more. Find a local CPA near you today!
Originally published 2/26/20