Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are knowledgeable about the tax code and can help you maximize your tax savings. In addition, they can represent you before the IRS to help deal with audits or collections.
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7 tips to find a good CPA
Here are seven tips for selecting a good CPA for your taxes:
1. Ask about their specialization
CPAs can specialize in a range of accounting areas, including business, government and forensic accounting, as well as tax preparation. For preparing and filing your personal taxes, consider finding a CPA who specializes in individual income tax returns.
2. Verify their identification number
The IRS requires CPAs who prepare taxes to register with the IRS and have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). To verify that a CPA is registered with a PTIN, simply search the IRS Return Preparer Office Directory.
3. Look up their license
CPAs are also licensed by the state, so before hiring one, you can search their records with your state's board of accountancy. Most states offer CPA databases that allow you to search by name and find important information on a CPA's license status, issue and expiration dates, as well as disciplinary actions and suspensions.
4. Consider their experience
While all CPAs are credentialed prior to offering their services, CPAs with several years of experience will more likely have a deeper understanding of the tax code than a newly certified individual. For example, TurboTax Live CPAs have an average of 15 years of experience.
Find out if your CPA has experience electronically filing tax returns. The IRS requires tax preparers who file 11 or more tax returns per year to provide e-filing services, so if a CPA does not offer e-filing, they may not be very experienced.
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5. Confirm their willingness to sign
Verify that your CPA will sign your tax return and represent you before the IRS for any tax matter related to your return. If not, consider finding a CPA who will.
6. Ask for advice
A good tax CPA will not only prepare and file your return for the current tax year, but can also offer year-round tax planning advice to help you maximize your tax savings for future tax years.
7. Determine their fees
CPAs can charge by the hour, flat fee, or other payment options based on the complexity of your taxes—how many schedules and supporting forms you'll need to file with your return. Make sure to find out if their fees include filing both federal and state returns. CPAs are not generally allowed to base their fees on a percentage of your tax refund, so you may want to avoid this type of pay arrangement.
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