Accountant & tax Prep Services

Did You Know?

  • Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax at 3% for incomes over $800 on August 5, 1861 in order to fund the Civil War efforts. 
  • The first record of taxes occurred in 2500 BC when Mesopotamian people used livestock or manual labor to pay taxes. 
The United States tax code can be very confusing. A Pew Research Center poll found that 72% of Americans surveyed believe the federal tax code is too complex. According to the Tax Foundation, the U.S. tax code is approaching nearly 10.1 million words as of 2015. There are more than 100 pages of instructions just for the Form 1040, which is the simplest form that federal taxpayers can prepare. The IRS reports that while the error rate for electronically filed returns is less than 1%, paper filers are 21 times more likely to make a mistake. Errors can cause tax returns to get audited or rejected. 
 
According to Forbes, more than half of returns – 57% – are done by paid preparers. In recent years professional tax advisers have been undercut by fraudsters, scammers and hackers. Scammers using false identities stole at least $1.68 billion in tax refunds in 2016 alone, according to a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

What is a CPA? 

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a financial adviser who has passed the rigorous CPA Exam, met work experience requirements, and takes continuing professional education courses to maintain the CPA certification. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) oversee the CPA certification program. 

Many people complete their own tax returns without the help of a CPA. But if you prepare a complicated tax form with schedules, depreciated assets and massive deductions, using a CPA ensures the accuracy of your return and reduces the likelihood of an audit.  CPAs can also help you maximize your tax return.

Not everyone needs to have an accountant. It really depends on the needs of your personal situation. People with rental property, unincorporated businesses, investments that generate K-1s, grantor trusts, substantial investments in marketable securities, or large retirement accounts and 401k balances may want to use a CPA to help prepare your taxes. You may also want to consider hiring an accountant if you have a complicated tax situation or experienced a big life change, such as adopting a child, buying property, or making a large amount of money. You many only need to speak with an accountant that year or during tax season. Getting an accountant can give you peace of mind in a complicated situation. 

Make Sure to Gather all necessary income documentation 

  • Form W-2 (wages)
  • W-2G (gambling winnings)
  • 1099-INT (interest)
  • 1099-DIV (dividends)
  • 1099-B (investment sales)
  • Combined 1099 (brokerage combined tax statement)
  • 1099-MISC (independent contractor work, royalties)
  • 1099-R (retirement distributions)
  • K-1 (MLP, Partnership or S-Corp share of income)
  • SSA-1099 (Social Security benefits)
  • 1099-G (unemployment benefits and state tax returns)
  • 1099-C (forgiven debt)
  • Income Adjustment Documents, including Form 1098-E (student loan interest); 5498 (IRA contributions); 5498-SA (HSA/MSA contributions); and 1098-T (tuition)
*You will only need the forms that apply to you. 
 
If you earn less than $66,000, you can file for free using the IRS Free File Software.

Tips to Find the Best Tax Preparer Near You

Ask for a Preparer Tax Identification Number
The IRS requires tax preparers or assistants in preparing federal tax returns for compensation to have a PTIN. Note: Volunteer preparers don’t need PTINs. Make sure your income tax preparer puts their PTIN on your return – the IRS require that, too. Preparers with PTINs are listed in the online IRS directory. A PTIN doesn’t signify an IRS endorsement. It merely provides proof that a tax professional has IRS authorization to prepare tax returns.

Require a CPA, law license, or enrolled agent designation
A PTIN is relatively easy to get, so take the extra step to get a certified preparer. This is someone who’s also a CPA, licensed attorney, enrolled agent or who has completed the IRS’ Annual Filing Season program. The Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor and Accredited Tax Preparer are example of programs that help preparers fulfill the Annual Filing Season Program requirement. These credentials all require varying amounts of study, exams and ongoing education.

Look for someone with a membership in a professional organization
Memberships in a professional organization such as the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or the American Academy of Attorney CPAs is always a good thing to have.

Be mindful of those who don’t e-file
The IRS requires any paid preparer who does more than 10 returns for clients to file electronically via the IRS’ e-file system. If your tax preparer doesn’t offer e-file, it may be a sign the person isn’t doing as much tax prep as you thought. 

Do some research
Filers should check with the Better Business Bureau, state accountancy board, and bar association to help research accountants and attorneys for possible complaints. Verification of the status of an enrolled agents can be done through the IRS.

Check if they can back you up
Enrolled agents, CPAs, and attorneys with PTINS can represent you in front of the IRS on audits, payments and collection issues, and appeals. Preparers who just have PTINS can’t – even if they prepared your return. Preparers who complete the Annual Filing Season Program can represent clients only in limited circumstances. Availability is also crucial. Even after the filing season is over and your tax return is history, a good tax preparer will take your call, respond to your email, and welcome you to visit.

Review your return before it is filed
Even though you may have confidence in your tax professional, never sign a blank return. By signing your tax return, you are responsible for all of the information on the forms. In checking your return before it’s filed, see if the income numbers match up to your W-2 forms and if the exemptions and other information are accurate. The law requires paid preparers to sign their clients’ returns and provide their PTINs. 

Compare fees and avoid promises of a big return
The average fee for preparing a tax return, including an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return, was $294 in 2018, according to the National Society of Accountants. The average cost to prepare a Form 1040 and state return without itemized deductions was $188.

Legitimate tax preparers often charge by the hour. If you come across one whose fee is based on the size of your return or who says they can get you a bigger refund than the next guy, those are red flags. You should be suspicious of anyone who tells you they can get you a big refund before even looking at your income and financial situation.  An unscrupulous tax preparer could pad your refund by taking extra exemptions or tax credits, overstating charitable contributions and filing for deductions you don’t deserve.

If the IRS is auditing you in person, tax preparers charge upward of $150 per hour to handle it, according to the National Society of Accountants. Some tax preparers bill by the hour. Others offer a flat fee, which can vary by the complexity of the return. 

Resources

Links to various resources on the topics discuss on this page. 

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