Choosing a Tax Preparer for a Small Business

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KIM: Hi, I'm Kim, and I work for the IRS.

If you're like many small-business owners, you use a tax preparer to give you more time to manage your business.

Tax law and payroll management can be fairly complex.

So, just what should you consider when choosing a tax professional?

What questions should you ask?

Well, while the IRS can't recommend specific tax preparers or even types of tax professionals, we do have some suggestions.

Before selecting a person or a firm to handle your business, you might ask about experience.

Has the preparer worked with businesses similar to yours in size and type?

Is the preparer familiar with your particular line of business?

Ask about services.

Does the tax preparer offer electronic filing?

Electronic filing is the safest and most efficient way to file your tax return.

Find out whether they will also deposit your tax payments electronically.

Of course, you'll be interested to know about cost, so ask what services are included in the preparers' fees.

If the IRS examines your return, what is their policy on assisting you?

Enrolled agents, tax attorneys, and CPAs all have training in federal taxes and can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collections actions, and appeals.

You may want to ask for references, just as you would for any professional service.

Consider checking with the Better Business Bureau, your State Board of Accountancy for CPAs, the State Bar Association for attorneys, or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.

A reputable professional will sign the returns they prepare and will enter a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN.

Avoid any paid preparer who refuses to sign a return they prepared.

But remember, even if you hire a tax preparer, you are legally responsible for what's on your tax return.

For more information, go to www.IRS.gov and type the words "choose tax preparer" in the search box.