Here we are at the beginning of tax season. By now you are starting to receive W-2s, 1099s, and other tidbits of data needed to prepare your tax return. You can try it on your own (and should, if your return is basic and straight forward!) but if beads of sweat are already forming on your brow at the thought of assembling information and getting it onto a tax form – NOW is the time to find a tax preparer. Do not wait until April 2…unless you don’t mind extending (more on that another day—it is NO big deal to extend as long as your taxes are paid by April 15 — or 17th this year, 2012).
Here is a handy dandy list of questions to help you select a CPA tax preparer. Do yourself a favor and do not call 10 preparers in an effort to select one. Instead – (1) ask reliable/put-together friends for a referral, (2) look at web sites not only for info about the CPA/preparer, but also for info that HELPS YOU and that is updated frequently – like a blog, (3) place a call and ask for a phone appointment to chat with the head honcho for 10 minutes (no charge at our firm), and (4) ask one or more of the questions below to get a sense of whether or not you have found a good fit.
Please note that that question: “How much do you charge?” is near the bottom of the list. While price is always a consideration/important, it should NOT be THE primary concern. If price IS your primary concern and you hold your preparer’s feet to the price tag fire – I can just about guarantee that you will be UNDERSERVED. You will be in danger of getting a “commodity” return – just the basics — because the preparer will be pressured to rush to finish in order to squeeze out a little profit. He or she will not have time or interest in finding out more about YOU to help YOU get the best tax result. May I suggest that it is better to ask for a RANGE of prices – ASK: what would it cost for a low end commodity-type return versus a higher end customized return experience that includes meetings to consider alternative tax positions, phone calls to uncover greater opportunities, mid year reviews to plan for better tax outcomes. And – of course, the price of some level of service in between. Your preparer will love you for your intelligent approach! And you will probably get a decent price for a great product.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
ONE – What are your areas of practice and specialization?
TWO – What is your background/experience/years in business–have you helped other individuals and/or businesses with “xyz” issue?
THREE – How will your services benefit me—how are they different from other tax preparers?
FOUR – How do you guarantee your work and your results?
FIVE – Do you offer a free consultation?
SIX – Who in your office will work with me?
SEVEN – How and when can I reach you—before AND after April 15?
EIGHT – What is your turn around time?
NINE – How do you avoid and/or resolve conflicts with clients?
TEN – What are your fees and how do you bill?
ELEVEN – Are you accepting new clients? 🙂
Remember – there are no truly right or wrong answers to these questions. You should get clear and concise answers so you know WHAT TO EXPECT in your relationship with your CPA (or tax preparer).
Visit us: www.zaffore.com And YES – we are accepting new clients :).