How to Select A North Bay Tax Accountant
When the time comes to start filing your tax return, hiring a local tax preparer can save you significant amounts of time and money in the long run.
But with so many people claiming to be experts and offering different levels of service at different costs, it can be difficult to find the best, most reliable person for your unique situation. That’s why ProActive Tax Solutions has been the choice for residents of the North Bay for over 20 years.
The Five Questions to Ask Before Hiring Someone to Prepare Your Taxes
It’s extremely important to find a trustworthy, qualified tax accountant, because the person you select will be handling a complex piece of your or your business’ finances, and they’ll have access to your private information.
When you find the right person to do your taxes, you’re protecting yourself from incurring fines or legal trouble in the future, and you can have peace of mind knowing that they will represent you if an audit occurs.
Whether this is your first time hiring an accountant, or you just want to re-evaluate and make sure your current tax preparer is meeting your needs, here are five key questions you should ask to ensure your tax accountant is the right one for you:
What Type of Tax Preparer Should I Work With?
Not all tax preparers in Corte Madera are the same. Georgia Rogers, E.A. (IRS Enrolled Agent) has been helping individuals and businesses boost their bottom lines with strategic accounting and tax planning support, as well as tax preparation services for over 25 years. Georgia founded ProActive Tax Solutions in 2004, when she became an Enrolled Agent.
When selecting someone to help you with your taxes, you should first understand the different types of tax preparers and their credentials, as this will help you choose someone who’s qualified and experienced.
The first thing every tax preparer must have is a Preparer Tax Identification Number. This is the number issued by the Internal Revenue Service that any paid tax preparer must put on the returns they file.
It’s important to note that a PTIN is relatively easy to obtain, and just because someone has one doesn’t necessarily mean they’re qualified or trustworthy.
Additionally, not all tax preparers are allowed to represent you in front of the IRS if you’re audited. Because of this, you should look for a tax accountant that is licensed in one of the following three categories:
Enrolled Agents: An enrolled agent has the highest level of credentials for tax preparation, because they’re licensed at the federal level by the IRS. To become an enrolled agent, individuals must either pass a rigorous, three-part Special Enrollment Examination or work at the IRS for five years. Enrolled agents must also complete significant amounts of continuing education every three years, so you can trust that they are up-to-date on recent changes to the tax code.
If you’re dealing with a complicated tax situation, or you just want to ensure that you’re working with the highest caliber of tax accountants, hiring an enrolled agent may be the best option for you.
Certified Public Accountants: To become a CPA, an individual must obtain an accounting degree, pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and become licensed in the state where they work. To be licensed in California, CPAs also need to pass the Professional Ethics Exam for CPAs, and have at least one year of work experience that was supervised by a CPA with an active license.
Keep in mind that not all CPAs specialize in tax preparation, so you’ll definitely want to look for someone who has experience working as a tax accountant. Finding a CPA with specialized training, such as an MBA with a tax specialty, can also help you ensure that you’re working with an expert.
Tax Attorneys: Tax attorneys are individuals with a law degree who specialize in understanding tax code. They typically also have a certification or an advanced degree in tax law, but this is not always required.
If you find yourself in a difficult legal situation and need legal advice, or if you need someone to represent you before the U.S. Tax Court, hiring a tax attorney may be the right decision for you.
Building a Relationship is Key
When you’re busy trying to find an accountant who’s qualified, trustworthy and cost effective, it can be easy to overlook the fact that you will ultimately be building a relationship with this person.
It’s important to find an accountant who you get along with and feel comfortable talking to, as you’ll likely have questions you need to ask them and may be building a long-term relationship beyond this one tax season.
If you’re ready to hire a local tax accountant who’s qualified to handle your personal or business taxes, ProActive Tax Solutions may be the perfect fit.
When you work with ProActive Tax Solutions, your tax return will be personally overseen by Georgia Rogers, E.A., an IRS Enrolled Agent with 25 years of tax preparation experience.
Is My Accountant Licensed and in Good Standing?
Even when you find an accountant located in Corte Madera who has a license and appears to be qualified, it’s still important to do your research and make sure you don’t find anything that seems like a red flag.
Some common red flags to look out for include:
- A tax preparer who is hesitant to provide references
- A tax preparer who won’t offer audit support
- A tax preparer who guarantees you’ll receive a refund
- A tax preparer who won’t sign your tax return, or who asks you to sign it before it’s filled out
Once you’ve found an accountant who doesn’t fall into the above categories, take some time to check up on the status of their license, and to learn more about their reputation.
How To Find Out
To start, you should ask for the accountant’s PTIN and look it up on a site like CPA Verify, which will show you if their license is up to date and let you know whether or not they’re in good standing.
Additionally, it’s always wise to Google an accountant’s name, their business name and read reviews about them on third-party sites. We’re proud to have 4.5 stars on Yelp under Tax Services in Corte Madera.
You should also find out if your accountant has membership in any professional organizations like the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. While this is not a requirement, membership in professional organizations may be a good sign that your accountant is committed to continuing education and adhering to a code of ethics.
If you’re willing to put in some extra time to be sure your accountant is trustworthy, you can also call your state’s Board of Accountancy (for a CPA) or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (for an Enrolled Agent) to check the status of their license and find out if disciplinary action has been taken against them. Devoting this extra time to finding the right accountant can give you peace of mind and help protect you against scams or legal challenges.
How Much Does Tax Preparation Cost in San Francisco?
The cost of tax preparation can vary greatly in the Bay depending on the complexity of your taxes and the accountant you choose to work with.
Because of this, it’s important to find someone who’s transparent about their pricing model from the start. For example, we list all of our costs right here on our website – 2021 tax preparation costs in North Bay.
Some tax preparers may charge an hourly rate, whereas others charge specific fees for each form you will need to file. For example, if you earned money in multiple states, or you have more than one 1099 form for miscellaneous income, your accountant will most likely charge you more money.
Be wary of anyone who bases their fee around the size of your refund, as they could end up charging you more money than other accountants. This could also be a sign that they will write off things that are illegal or questionable, making you more likely to be audited by the IRS or to face other repercussions.
What Will Happen if I Am Audited by the IRS?
Even though tax audits are relatively rare — the IRS typically audits less than 1 percent of all tax returns each year — it’s important to know what you can expect from your accountant if an audit should occur.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to work with an Enrolled Agent or a CPA, because they will be able to represent you in front of the IRS if an audit happens.
If you’re audited, many accountants will charge you an hourly rate for the time they spend working on your audit, so you should ask your accountant in advance for an idea of how much that will cost you.
Also, not all accountants have availability after filing season is over, so you want to find someone who will be available to answer your calls and work with you through the complex process of audit representation.
Ready to Find a Local Tax Accountant in North Bay?
We’re located right off of the 101 and can be reached by calling (415) 924-6240. Call Georgia now to set up your complimentary and confidential consultation.