Qualities to Look for in a Tax Professional

Taxes are a tricky business, which is why it’s often best to leave tax prep to qualified professionals. But finding someone you can trust to handle such a vital part of your financial health can be equally as complicated. When searching for a tax professional, what qualities should you seek out, and how?  Taxes are a tricky business, which is why it’s often best to leave tax prep to qualified professionals. But finding someone you can trust to handle such a vital part of your financial health can be equally as complicated. When searching for a tax professional, what qualities should you seek out, and how?

Ask for Help From Your Network

Personal recommendations go a long way, especially if those recommendations come from family, friends and coworkers whom you trust, according to Kiplinger.com Online Editor Cameron Huddleston. If your trusted sources are far away, Huddleston suggests reviewing the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation Website or contacting your state’s CPA society for tax professional referrals.

“…Narrow your list of recommended tax preparers down to two or three candidates, who you will then call or visit for an interview,” advises Huddleston.

Vet Credentials

Even if a referral comes from your best friend, make sure you do your due diligence and vet their recommended tax professional’s credentials and licensing. Since many unqualified and unlicensed tax professionals surface during tax season, it’s important that you seek out an enrolled agent, according to Kiplinger.com Contributing Editor Kimberly Lankford.

“Enrolled agents are tax experts who must pass a rigorous test, meet annual continuing-education requirements, and who are licensed to represent clients in front of the IRS,” explains Lankford. “Enrolled agents can prepare your income-tax return, and some provide tax-planning advice. You can also contact an enrolled agent if you need help after receiving a penalty letter from the IRS.” Lankford also advises you to find a certified public accountant (CPA) who is also qualified as a personal financial specialist (PFS) if your tax needs overflow into financial planning.

Consider Affiliations

In addition to reviewing the licensing, credentials, experience, specialties and degrees of your potential tax professional, NerdWallet.com writer Tina Orem recommends taking a look at the company they keep.

“Membership 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, as most have codes of ethics, professional conduct requirements and various certification programs,” reports Orem.

Trust Your Instincts

Just because you feel unqualified to handle your tax prep on your own doesn’t mean your instincts about a tax professional are unfounded. If you sense something is off when interviewing a tax professional, it probably is, especially when the conversation is about fees.

“Legitimate tax preparers often charge by the hour, so if you come across one whose fee is based on the size of your refund or who says he or she can get you a bigger refund than the next guy, those are red flags,” warns Orem.

Look for Engagement

You want the tax professionals and financial advisors working with you to be excited and engaged by their trade, according to Investopedia.com writer Craig Anthony.

“This is important because standards, laws, methodologies and products within the financial and investment worlds are constantly evolving,” reports Anthony. “When a financial advisor has a huge passion for the subject matter, that person naturally gravitates toward learning more and more about the industry every day.”

Tax preparation is an extremely analytical and complicated endeavor that requires a highly qualified tax professional. Don’t let just anyone handle your money—take the time to find someone you trust.


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7 Responses to “Qualities to Look for in a Tax Professional”

  1. My dad is planning to hire a tax professional service that will be able to help him with his property taxes because he’s quite confused about the whole process. Well, you made a pretty good point about the importance of checking the prospective service’s credentials and license. I’m glad that you also opened up that the chosen professional must have a CPA as well.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned it’s important to check the qualifications of your tax professional in order to select the best one. My sister and her husband are thinking about opening a pawnshop, but they’re worried about the business’s accounting issues. They’re not familiar with taxes or stuff like that, so I think they should get the help of a professional. That’s why I believe this information will help. Thanks for the tips about what to consider when selecting a tax preparer for your business.

  3. Tex Hooper says:

    Great tip about getting referrals for financial experts. We need to get an accountant to help solve a housing budget issue. We’ll have to hire someone who has high online reviews.

  4. Larry Weaver says:

    Thanks for the tip to check licensing and credentials when looking for a tax professional. My parents started a small business last month, and they are struggling to keep track of their taxes. I’ll tell them to do some research to find a reliable tax professional who can help them with their small business.

  5. It’s great that you talked about researching a tax preparer before hiring one. Recently, one of my cousins mentioned he’s interested in starting a business. Personally, I think every big or small business needs to work with an accountant, so I’ll be sure to tell my cousin about it. Thanks for the advice on tax professionals and how to find one.

  6. I am glad you suggest getting personal recommendations to find a good tax professional. I would imagine that checking reviews online could also be a good way to find a professional. Your article was very effective in helping me understand the best ways to find a tax professional.

  7. Tex Hooper says:

    I like your tax tips. I need to get a tax helper. I don’t know how to file 1099s.

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