Sick of taxes? Tips on finding and choosing an accountant for the retiree
Apr 11, 2012, 6 a.m.
If you're sick of taxes and would rather find a tax accountant to do the dirty work for you, it's important to know what to look for before you go entrusting that duty to anyone. Here are a few crucial things to think about when finding an accountant to handle your sensitive financial information.
Are they qualified? Simply by walking into a high profile tax preparation chain won't assure you that your taxes will be handled by someone with a lot of experience. Employees here run the gamut from career tax preparers to people with very little experience. Enrolled agents are the only professionals who are required to be certified by the IRS to prepare taxes. Regardless of whether you go through a CPA or a storefront chain, be sure to ask about the experience of the person handling your tax returns.
How much do they charge? Some people place such a high value on finding an accountant that's capable and reliable that they don't bat an eye at outrageously high fees. But the fact is, in order to make the venture a profitable one, you have to look at cost of services. Some tax preparers charge by the hour, others by the form. Weigh your options carefully -- it's entirely possible to pay too much.
Can they represent you in an audit? In the unlikely event that you are audited, you're going to want to have a professional at your side that can act as your advocate when the IRS comes knocking. If you find a tax accountant that can also represent you, this is the most desirable of all options.
Are they well versed in the tax laws of other states? This may not be something to concern yourself with if you haven't moved recently or if you're not planning on moving anytime soon. But if you have, be aware that many tax professionals are only experienced in filing in-state taxes and may have difficulty researching the procedures of other states.
Remember that price is not always a barometer of quality of service. It's entirely possible for you to find a tax accountant that's dirt cheap and world class, just as it's possible to get charged through the roof by someone who doesn't know what they're doing. Never flip a coin when finding an accountant. Ask friends, family, and even your neighbors if there's anyone they would recommend for the job. Often, the most reliable recommendations are those given by word of mouth.
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