One of the most important things to ask for is credentials. As of 2011, it's now federal law that anyone you pay to submit your taxes has a current Preparer Tax ID number, or PTIN. It is also important that this person participates in some sort of professional organization that provides continuing education and maintains them to certain standards. Let's face it, tax laws change all the time and you want to be reassured that the person you hire is knowledgeable and thorough in preparing your tax return.
It makes sense to do a little research and investigate the history of the preparer. Check online and see if there are any reviews or ask for references. It is important that you pass your financial information on to someone you trust with a good reputation. After all, even if that person files your return for you, YOU are ultimately responsible if any questions arise or if your return is verified by the IRS.
You also want to ask what the tax preparation fees are and if those fees include filing. These factors usually depend on who you plan to do your taxes on. A CPA is not allowed to charge a percentage of your refund amount. Some may charge a flat fee and some even charge by the hour. Sometimes additional services are offered at an additional cost. You want to make sure you know exactly what fees the preparer is expecting, so be sure to ask questions.
Be prepared to provide the tax preparer with all necessary receipts and documents. Whether you have a straightforward return or not, you should be able to provide professional proof of your income and information regarding any expenses or deductions that you expect to include on your tax return. You want your preparer to be equipped with all the vital information to make sure your tax returns are filed correctly.
Once the return is complete, be sure to review the work. Make sure you are aware of everything that has been written on the return and that the information is correct. If you have any questions in the future, you want to know exactly what you have deposited. The preparer must also sign the declaration and include their PTIN number, which is stipulated by law. You should receive a personal copy of the return to keep for your records.
Filing your income tax returns can be overwhelming and time consuming. The good news is that there are experts out there who are ready, willing, and authorized to help. Do your homework. Carefully study all of your options until you have found a credible professional to help you with your tax return and filing.