Money & Career
What to Expect from a Tax Preparer
2/4/2019 1:26:41 PM
Tax Prep

The U.S. tax code is notorious for its complexity. Even so, millions of Americans do their own taxes every year. If you’re one of them but you’re considering hiring a tax preparer this year, you might wonder what you should expect.

First, you can look forward to some extra free time this tax season. When you hire a tax preparer, your main role is to provide your prior-year tax return along with your W-2 or 1099s and other tax documents you receive in the mail. Your tax preparer is also sure to have some questions for you, but once you’ve provided the necessary information, he or she will take it from there.

"The first year someone works with a tax preparer is a little more time-consuming,” says Sam Harrison, a director at CPA firm McElroy, Quirk & Burch (MQB). "I will ask more questions that first year because I want to make sure we don’t miss anything. But once I get to know you, there are things I just know — how many kids you have, for example.”

Still, MQB sends paperwork to its existing clients every January in order to determine whether their tax situation has changed.

How much you can expect to pay your tax preparer likely depends on how complicated your tax situation is and on the number and types of forms you need to file. Like many firms, MQB charges an hourly rate. Harrison says that unless your tax situation has substantially changed, you can expect to pay a similar fee from one year to the next.

According to the IRS, the price for getting a tax return prepared by a professional may range from $60 to more than $1,000, with an average cost of close to $200. If someone wants to base your bill on the size of your refund, though, that’s a red flag.

"That’s a situation that can possibly lead to a faulty filed return,” Harrison says.

Along the same lines, one thing you should not expect is a big refund. Though you may very well get one, anyone who promises that you will before even looking at your paperwork probably isn’t aboveboard. 

Harrison recommends choosing a tax preparer who is credentialed: a CPA, tax attorney, or enrolled agent. Visit irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf to search for one in your area.

He also emphasizes the importance of hiring someone who has experience with similar clients. If you have rental property, for example, work with someone who has other clients with rental property.

Finally, you should expect to feel confident in and comfortable with your tax preparer. If you don’t, find a new one.

"Some people don’t mesh. That’s just the way things work,” Harrison says. "You always want to make sure you are comfortable communicating with your tax preparer, whether that’s by email, in person, or phone calls. A good means of communication and just making sure things mesh is very important.”

For more information on McElroy, Quirk & Burch, call 337-433-1063, go to their website, www.mqb-cpa.com, or email Harrison at sharrison@mqb-cpa.com.
Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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