How to Find a Professional Tax Advisor

Daniel Penzing
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Start With the PTIN

The first way to start your search for a tax advisor is to take a look at a Professional Tax Identifying Number, or PTIN. This is an identification number that all tax professionals who are authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS must have.

It is valid for five years, from the date it is assigned. A tax professional must renew their PTIN each year and can find out how to do so by visiting the IRS website and finding the Form W-12.

It’s important to remember that just because someone has a valid PTIN number doesn’t mean that they are a licensed tax preparer. If you are looking for a professional to prepare your 2016 taxes, you’ll need to make sure they are a licensed tax preparer.

You can search for the names and contact information of tax preparers in your local area by visiting the IRS website and clicking on “Free Tax Filing Options.” The first option on the list is “Free File.”

Check Qualifications

Before finding a new tax advisor, it is important to check their qualifications and credentials. … But from the IRS’s perspective, there is a good reason for the terms of the deal. The IRS has an ever-increasing number of individuals who owe back taxes. Mainly, the IRS wants to collect as much money as possible to help offset the costs of processing the many returns and audits. The IRS will only take deals that make it money. This means that the number of taxpayers who qualify for a payment plan versus those who don’t is different than what you might think.

It is also important that you consult with a tax professional who is licensed to practice in your state. To find out if your tax advisor is qualified, you can check with your state licensing board. Usually, there is a section on the website of the board that tells you which licenses are required to practice in your state.

Consider Experience

Your tax advisor should have several years of experience related to taxes. If they have experience and a college degree that related to accounting (such as a bachelor’s degree in accountancy), that will be an added benefit.

The best way to find an experienced tax professional is to look for a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or Enrolled Agent. Both are experienced tax professionals.

If you live in the United States, the IRS has devised a self-assessment of your financial knowledge. When it comes to tax liabilities, it is an assessment that you do not want to fail. Take a look at the IRS guide to the self-assessment to see whether you need to brush up on any areas that you may have forgotten.

Ask About Price

You will almost certainly have to hire your accountant separately from your tax preparation service. It is important that you avoid all the hassles and stress of this move by asking each professional for an exact quote before you go any further. Always ask up-front for a price or a low estimate of the services you will receive, as well as the billable hours and fees before you hire anyone.

If someone fails to give you an estimate up-front or tries to charge you extra fees, you should walk away right then and there. The last thing you need is a surprise tax bill to deal with later on.

Look for e-Filing

Local tax advisors and professionals sometimes work with multiple e-filing providers, so you should reach out to the providers you’re considering and see which tax professionals they recommend.

Additionally, be sure to follow any IRS guidelines, forms, and other requirements. For example, businesses filing both a 1099 and a 1096 will be required to file their 1099s electronically. So any business looking to file a 1099 electronically will need to be sure their tax preparer or accountant is using an e-filing provider.

Find Out About Representation to the IRS

Before hiring tax advisor, research his/her background and experience. A person with experience would be more competent than a person without experience. To find out about representation to the IRS, as well as about the professional’s background or experience, ask the professional about the representation to the IRS and his/her background and experience.

As a follow-up to the conversation, you may also find out about the experience level of the professional’s clients. It might help you decide whether you want to retain the professional as your tax consultant or not.

To save yourself from going through the hassle of making calls and making enquiries in person as to whether a particular professional is competent to handle your case, you may opt for calling the IRS. The IRS would be able to help you find out about the professional’s experience and about the representation to the IRS. You need to know whether any complaints or other unethical practices have been reported about the professional.

Ask if They Offer Year-Round Tax Planning Help

Often, when you first begin working with a tax professional, they will help with tax preparation and planning for the upcoming year. However, because of the number of changes that are made to our tax code each year, many tax advisors are well-versed in year-round tax planning and have experience in planning for the future. That’s what you’re looking for in an advisor.

While doing your due diligence and -obviously- asking friends and coworkers for professional referrals is a great way to find a good tax advisor, you should also ask about year-round tax planning experience. Tax preparation services only cover taxes for the current year. However, you want your tax advisor to help you make the best possible decisions for you.

In other words, the best tax advisors help you plan ahead for any upcoming tax changes.

Bottom Line

The best part about using an accountant to do your taxes is you may be able to deduct the cost of the tax preparation fees from other sources of taxable income on your return. Some people who are not tax professionals, but who do have specializations in other areas, can complete your return and potentially save you money.

So, how can you tell the difference between a professional tax advisor and a preparer who is not a tax pro, as well as find a professional tax advisor?

Check out our tax advisor vs preparer guide to see if you can tell if the position you apply to work in is a tax advisor, preparer, or something in between. If you need a tax preparer, it can be really helpful to determine ahead of time that you will be dealing with one who is legally bound to follow sound tax advice.

Hopefully, after reading this post, you will know how to determine whether or not the position you’re applying for is a position in a public accounting firm ‖ which is likely to be a professional tax advisor position ‖ or something else. On the other hand, if you need help finding a tax advisor, we hope you will understand how to search for the best tax preparer for your circumstances.