Quality Tax Return Preparation

January 13, 2012

How does a tax firm provide a quality product?  Here are a few of my answers.

Acquiring good information. The more information supported by documentation the more accurate and “audit proof” the return can be. The preparer may need to ask questions to confirm history and source of documents or request more documents to clarify the client’s verbal or written statements.

Research and discussion. A firm that encourages preparers to discuss particular tax situation with each other or supervisors and to research unusual items or treatments, will have a more knowledgeable staff. Annual training is an important part of this process.

Review. Even the most experienced and accurate preparers make errors. Whether a typing error or misunderstanding of information or law, a second set of eyes, is always important. Even a sole practitioner can improve accuracy by reviewing their own work a day or two later.

Providing the client with what they need.  A quality product includes not only a neatly assembled client copy of the tax return but also other information and instruction necessary to help the client file the returns. Worksheets may be added on an as needed basis depending on the interest of the client. Instructions should be clear and usually include envelopes correctly addressed. Information on how to better prepare for the next tax year can be helpful.

Confidentiality.  Tax return preparers, whether a CPA, EA or other preparer, are required by the I.R.S. to maintain a clients confidentiality. The office staff should not be heard discussing other clients by name or description.  Everyone’s social security number must be protected.  A client’s tax documents should be securely stored and conveyed.  

Observing laws.  In this electronic age, more and more rules are necessary to prevent fraud and theft. Your tax preparation firm should be following the laws for your benefit and theirs. While preparers are now required to offer efiling, this process has many rules to be followed. A preparer should never ask you to sign a blank form or offer to file your return without getting your signature first. Even though inconvenient, it helps to protect you as a taxpayer. Dishonesty in one area of work can carryover to other acts.

As I said, everyone makes mistakes. At Brown Tax Accounting, this year we are concentrating on minimizing the errors. Sometimes this takes longer that you might like or it may cost more than someone else charges, but we hope to have more satisfied clients in the long run.

Julie K. Brown CPA, EA     January 13, 2012

Ten Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer

January 13, 2012

IRS TAX TIP 2012-06, January 10, 2012
Many people look for help from professionals when it’s time to file their tax return. If you use a paid tax preparer to file your return this year, the IRS urges you to choose that preparer wisely. Even if a return is prepared by someone else, the taxpayer is legally responsible for what’s on it. So, it’s very important to choose your tax preparer carefully.This year, the IRS wants to remind taxpayers to use a preparer who will sign the returns they prepare and enter their required Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax return preparer:

  1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. The IRS is also phasing in a new test requirement to make sure those who are not an enrolled agent, CPA, or attorney have met minimal competency requirements. Those subject to the test will become a Registered Tax Return Preparer once they pass it.
  2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.
  3. Ask about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. Also, always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into an account in your name. Under no circumstances should all or part of your refund be directly deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
  4. Ask if they offer electronic filing.  Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return.  More than 1 billion individual tax returns have been safely and securely processed since the debut of electronic filing in 1990.  Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file.
  5. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible.  Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
  6. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  7. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
  8. Review the entire return before signing it.  Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
  9. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN.  A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return.  The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. Download Form 14157 from www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Countdown to Tax Day


January 2012