If you think your tax situation warrants a professional touch or you simply choose to not do them yourself, your tax forms should not be the only thing you bring to a tax advisor's office. You need to be prepared to ask questions, as many as you feel necessary, to determine if this particular tax preparer meets your needs and expectations. Remember, not all tax advisors have the same education, licensing, knowledge or area of expertise. To help you decipher if a tax preparer is the one for you, we've put together a list of questions we strongly suggest you ask to get a feel for the person you are going to choose to file your taxes for you. After all, we could be talking about the difference between a safe sizable reduction in your taxes and an error-ridden audit in the making here. Regardless of who prepares your taxes, you are the one responsible to the IRS. Therefore, you need to be responsible in your decision to select an advisor.
What services do you offer?
Ideally, your safest bet is to go with a preparer who is completely focused on taxes. Usually when someone is trying to deal with too many different areas at once, something has to give. It's a possibility that your return will not get his full attention, or that he is not fully competent in the area that you require his services in. Jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
If your potential preparer is not poking and prodding into your business, don't hire them. The more they learn about you and your lifestyle, the more likely they will be to find tax deductions that you have overlooked or didn't know about. If he isn't making an attempt to gain all the insight he can from you, you most likely are not going to be getting your money's worth here.
Who will be responsible for preparing my return?
A lot of times, this will be the person you are talking with. However, in larger firms, tax preparation work often gets delegated to junior level personnel. This is not always a bad thing. You may be charged less if a junior level person does the preliminary tax preparation work that a senior member will actually complete. However, beware of paying senior level prices if a junior level person is completing your tax return.
Do you have any areas of expertise?
This one is a very important question so be sure to ask it. If you are a big investor or own your own business, you aren't looking for a tax preparer whose clientele is made up of mostly farmers. Your advisor should be adept at processing the kinds of forms and schedules you require and should be very familiar with plausible deductions in your subject area. For example, if you need help completing a Schedule SE for the self-employed, ask how much experience the person has had with filing this kind of form. If you wanted a novice completing your taxes, you'd probably be doing it yourself!