10 Questions for Your Tax Professional

Your small business rises and falls on efficiency and professionalism. If the people doing your work aren’t talented and precise, it will cost you money and hurt your business. This principle extends outside of your core business to every aspect, including things like accounting and tax preparation.

When you’re hiring a tax preparer, there are some specific questions you need to put out there and see where they stand. Before you hire a tax professional, ask these 10 questions of your tax preparer;

  1. What are your professional designations? Depending on the type of tax preparer you’re working with, there are usually licensing and industry requirements. For example, CPAs have to meet specific criteria, and they’re able to represent your business before the IRS. Tax attorneys must be licensed by the state bar. Know what licensing and designations your tax preparer has.
  2. How long have you been in business? A company that’s been in business for 10 years is likely to be around if you get audited or if you have questions down the road. A company that’s just starting out is a little bit riskier from that perspective.
  3. What kind of experience do you have working with businesses like mine? To be sure, every tax preparer has to get started somewhere. If you can help it, however, you don’t want them to learn the ropes while they’re working on your tax return. Ask how long the professional has been working with businesses, and ask about businesses that are similar to yours as well.
  4. How often would you prefer to meet with me throughout the year? Some tax professionals focus only on tax preparation, meaning you will most likely only deal with them during the filing season once each year. Real tax savings can only come from proactive planning which happens throughout the tax year, not after the fact.
  5. How are your fees structured? Some tax preparers will charge a flat fee for individual tax returns, but things are often different for businesses. Make sure you talk to your tax professional about how his rate structure works. Watch out for anyone who works for you based on a percentage of your tax refund.
  6. What’s your experience representing clients in an audit situation? If you wind up getting audited, you’re going to want someone who’s handled the situation before. However, if she’s done a large number of audits, it could indicate a problem with the kind of work she does.
  7. Do you outsource any of your work? Some tax preparers are part of a team, or may have subordinates that work for them. You should find out if the tax professional does the work personally. If they don’t do the work personally, that’s completely fine; you need to know who does, and you need to understand the review process. You also need to know, then, who will be signing the return.
  8. How long will it take? It’s not always easy for a tax professional to give you an exact amount of time that your return will take, but they can certainly give you an estimate. You want to know that they’ll be able to devote enough time to the process, but that it will be completed by the deadlines, as well.
  9. What is your privacy policy? If you’re working with a tax attorney, they’re bound by attorney-client privilege not to disclose any of your information to third parties. In some states, there are similar conditions that apply to certified public accountants, as long as the information isn’t related to the commission of a crime. Find out what the company’s privacy policy is and what third parties, if any, they might share your information with.
  10. What can you do differently than what I’ve done before to help me save more on my taxes? This can be a tough question for a tax professional, but it’s one worth asking. If the tax professional isn’t able to identify at least some possible areas of savings that you wouldn’t find on your own, you really need to ask yourself whether you want to hire them. A tax professional who’s truly qualified and ready to work hard for you should be able to identify some areas of improvement, at least after they’ve started working on your taxes.

Choosing the right tax professional is essential to getting the most out of your tax situation. If you don’t bring in the right expertise for your business, you’re going to have to pay more than your fair share of taxes. Don’t trust your business’ taxes to just anyone, but use these questions to thoroughly vet any potential tax professional.

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