(NewsUSA) - Although you may not have received all of your tax documents yet, it's not too early to start looking for someone to prepare your tax return. Remember, not all tax preparers are created equal. So, when shopping around, ask yourself a few important questions:
1. What kind of tax preparer should I look for? Enrolled agents (EAs), certified public accountants (CPAs), commercial firms and seasonal tax preparers are popular choices for tax preparation. However, only EAs, CPAs and attorneys can represent a taxpayer before the IRS. The money you may save using an unqualified preparer could be overshadowed by the tax you may pay if the unqualified preparer is unfamiliar with current, legitimate tax deductions and credits.
Many states have no special licensing laws for tax preparers, but enrolled agents receive their authority from the federal government. They are "agents" because they are authorized to appear in place of a taxpayer in dealing with IRS audits, collections or appeals. Enrolled agents earn their credential by passing a comprehensive exam administered by the IRS that covers the broad range of tax issues that affect individuals and businesses, and how to represent clients before the IRS.
2. Is the tax preparer knowledgeable and up to date? Members of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) are required to complete 30 hours of continuing professional education each year to maintain membership. This surpasses the IRS licensing requirement of 24 hours per year. Continuing education ensures that EAs keep abreast of constantly changing tax laws and regulations. Many EAs are also experienced in tax and financial planning, estate and trust services, small business consultation and more.
3. Is the tax preparer bound by any ethical standards? Enrolled agents are required to abide by U.S. Treasury Department Circular 230, which details the standards of professional conduct. EAs who violate the provisions of Circular 230 may be suspended or disbarred from practice. EAs are also subject to vigorous background checks before they receive their licenses.
4. What are your needs? Are you sure that you are getting all of the eligible deductions or tax credits? Perhaps it's been a while since you filed a tax return. Maybe you are one of the millions of Americans who started their own business, and this is the first time you are filing a business return. Enrolled agents prepare millions of tax returns each year and are an excellent resource for anyone seeking up-to-date information on all tax-related issues!
Call NAEA's toll-free referral line at 1-800-424-4339, or go to NAEA's website at www.naea.org to find a qualified EA in your area.