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How to select a qualified tax preparer

By Nathan Vinson
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP

Tax season is behind us (ahh, it feels nice to type this…) but it’s never too early to remind folks what to look for in a tax preparer – particularly given the news out of the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year.

2015-02-02 16.45.14The U.S. Department of Justice banned a Kentucky man from preparing tax returns for life after auditing several of his clients’ returns. He offered a service in which he would go to the home of a client and prepare their tax returns on the spot, but he filed fake deductions, including using his own relatives as dependents on their returns and falsifying letters from churches indicating that people had donated money that they had not. He is banned from preparing taxes for life, and rightly so. The Internal Revenue Service takes incidents like this very seriously and has taken a necessary step to help keep the tax preparation industry free of con artists.

But, of course, consumers have some duty to protect themselves from tax preparers who don’t know what they’re doing, or who take it so far as to file false returns. Clearly, you absolutely should examine any tax return prepared on your behalf. You should never blindly sign and mail a return, but we know that many people do.

It’s actually a good time of year to meet with a tax preparer. They’re less busy than they will be late in the year, and they’ll hopefully take the time to talk to you about your needs and what steps you can take now that will help you next April 15. The starting place for a good tax preparation service is qualifications. When you meet with a tax preparer, consider asking these questions:

  • How long have you been preparing taxes?
  • What is your level of education?
  • What specialized training do you have? Do you have any certifications in the area of taxes or tax law?
  • What is your turnaround time for tax preparation?
  • Do you do the tax preparation yourself or does someone on your staff do it?
  • If someone else does it, do you review it?

These questions are basic, and any tax preparer should feel comfortable answering these queries.

If you own a business, you absolutely should consider tax preparation assistance. Getting help with this task takes away what many consider to be a huge headache and can help you concentrate on what you do best – run your business. Good tax preparation is a year-round job – emphasizing record-keeping, proper invoicing, proper withholding, timely remitting sales tax and managing every other element of your business’s financial well-being.

Do you need a tax attorney to help you beyond tax prep? Maybe. If you own a business, you definitely need someone in your corner who is very knowledgeable about taxes. When you’re ready to talk taxes, feel free to contact me, Nathan Vinson, at (270) 781-6500 or nvinson@elpolaw.com. I’ll be glad to talk to you about your needs or concerns.