Finding the right tax preparer for your business

Periodically, I am asked to recommend a qualified tax preparer. Finding such a professional is like finding a qualified plumber, tree trimmer, or physician. Ask around, and get several recommendations from people you already know, like, and most importantly, trust.

Also, the IRS provides a guide to choosing a tax professional on its website, and there are links on that page with more information. Among them are the avenues to check on qualifications.

Here are a few things to consider as you look for a tax preparer for your business.

Is the firm or individual taking new clients?

Start looking long before your tax returns are due; good tax preparers are usually booked with existing clients, and simply won't take on a new client's returns right at tax time. If they do, the bill will, understandably, show it. Simply filing an extension request may fill the immediate need, but keep in mind the tax bill is not delayed.

What else can a tax professional help with?

A good tax professional will become a trusted financial advisor for you and your business. So first things first: determine what issues other than tax preparation you have about your business. Do you need guidance with any of the following:

– applying for a loan?
– improving your cash flow?
– taking on a partner, or exiting the business?

What questions should I ask?

Now that you know who is taking clients, and what services you need, here are some questions to consider asking of prospective professionals:

– What degrees, certifications, or training do you have?
– What is your experience with businesses in my industry, and of my size?
– Whom will I be working with, and how quickly will they respond?
– How do you set fees?
– What expectations do you have of me?

One last thing

When you submit your financial numbers and supporting documentation to your tax preparer, you likely sign a statement that says you’re submitting information that’s accurate and true to the best of your knowledge. When your tax preparer files your taxes for you, they sign a statement that says they’ve completed the filing based on information you provided. If the professional made an honest mistake, they often will pay any penalties and interest, but you are responsible for the actual tax bill.

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