How To Find The Best Tax Preparer or CPA (2024)

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If you have complicated taxes (say, you’re self-employed, or you have rental properties) or even if you simply hate doing your own taxes, finding a good tax preparer can be a huge help and relieve a lot of stress.

A good tax preparer can ensure you receive all the credits you qualify for and can help you avoid filing an extension or amendment, or paying penalties and interest.

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What You Need For Your 2023 Taxes

If you decide to have your tax returns professionally prepared, the first thing you need to ensure is the tax preparer you choose has experience with your specific tax situation, says Kimberly Dula, a managing partner at Friedman, a New York-based accounting company.

“The tax world has become so complex that many CPAs [certified public accountants] now have their own specialties,” she says. “For example, certain CPAs have extensive experience with estate planning issues and the related compliance, while others may specialize in partnership taxation. You need to make sure that the CPA you choose can assist you with all of your needs.”

Who Should Consider Hiring a Tax Preparer?

In general, if you have complicated taxes that touch on one or more of the following situations, you might consider hiring a tax preparer or CPA:

  • You just started a business in 2023 tax year or have a complex business structure, such as an S-corporation, partnership or corporation
  • You have employees, or you’re self-employed
  • You experienced a recent change in your tax situation (such as your marital status, dependents, a job change, moving to a different state)
  • You sold a property in the 2023 tax year
  • You worked in multiple states
  • You started a non-profit organization
  • You’re planning to buy or sell a business
  • You want to create a trust for your children or other dependents
  • You changed tax brackets
  • You live in a state that doesn’t have income tax, but are moving to one that assesses one
  • You’re planning on retiring soon
  • You became a gig economy worker
  • You’re planning on living abroad for a few months each year
  • You inherited property or other assets from a family member or another individual

How to Find a Tax Preparer or CPA

Consult with other people in your industry if you are self-employed or own a small business or seek advice from members of a professional organization. Getting referrals from your co-workers, friends or family members is another option, but they likely are facing a different tax or financial situation from you.

Online reviews of tax preparers are also available, but verifying the people who wrote them can be tricky. If you receive a recommendation for a CPA, ask the tax preparer for a few references and shop around before you make a decision.

Read More: What Is A Certified Public Accountant?

Consider looking further afield if you live in an expensive area. Many tax preparers, especially given the pandemic can work with you remotely.

But be aware that local tax preparers may know local rules that may affect your taxes. You will want to hire someone with knowledge about your state taxes—either by being located in your state or having a lot of clients in your state. Another factor to consider if you live in an area that has a local or city tax, be sure that your tax preparer has dealt with the tax filings for these localities.

“You want to work with someone who not only knows that these tax jurisdictions exist, but who knows how to maneuver through them should you ever run into a problem, Dula says.

But aside from being knowledgeable, you want to hire someone you feel good about working with.

“Most importantly, make sure you like him or her – your CPA should be someone who is a member of your financial team. Similar to your investment advisor and your attorney, your CPA should be someone you are comfortable calling should you have a question at any time during the year.”

Always shop around and get pricing upfront from a potential tax preparer. Ask if the CPA charges by the hour or fixed fee.

Some tax preparers charge a fixed fee depending on the level of complexity of the return, Dula says. Others charge based on their firm’s standard hourly rates. Both methods are standard, and the fee structure is based on how complicated a person’s taxes are. Individuals tend to pay a fixed fee, while corporations usually pay hourly rates since they work with their tax preparers throughout the year.

“Unfortunately depending on the firm and the complexity of the tax return, the cost can be several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars,” she says.

If you have more complicated tax needs, such as running a small business, ask the tax preparer if he/she can provide tax assistance throughout the year and how much it would cost.

A tax preparer can help throughout the year, but for more complex taxes, you may prefer a CPA who may also handle your business’s books and finances.

“A CPA can be beneficial because they help with record keeping and any questions that pop up throughout the year,” says Daniel Fan, head of wealth planning at First Foundation Advisors, an Irvine, California-based financial institution. “Some clients feel that preparers focus on the information needed to fill out a tax return and do not offer proactive tax advice such as strategies to reduce taxes, so they stick with a CPA for the overall assistance.”

People who own businesses typically work with a CPA throughout the year on charitable planning issues, calculations of quarterly estimates and sometimes tax notices, Dula says.

“For me it has always been about the relationship—and yes, this does come at a cost,” she says. “Your CPA is a resource who if used properly can help to save you some tax dollars and help to keep you out of trouble.”

When choosing a tax preparer, ask them about their communication preference. Some tax preparers prefer discussing issues over the phone or video while others will answer basic questions via email.

Video meetings via Zoom and Team are a “great alternative” currently since in-person meetings aren’t always possible, Dula says.

“For clients who live nearby, in-person meetings are still the best,” she says. “This is a great time to catch up, ask questions and really dive into what has been going on in your client’s life and in the tax world. Since many of our clients live all over the world, email is the easiest form of communication.”

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As a seasoned expert in the field of taxation, I bring forth a wealth of firsthand knowledge and experience to guide you through the intricate world of tax preparation. With a background deeply rooted in accounting and finance, I have navigated the complexities of tax codes and regulations, ensuring individuals and businesses optimize their financial standing. My expertise is not only theoretical but has been honed through practical applications, enabling me to provide insightful advice on finding the right tax preparer and understanding the nuances of tax-related decisions.

Now, let's delve into the concepts discussed in the article and provide valuable insights:

  1. Tax Preparers and CPAs: The article emphasizes the importance of choosing a tax preparer or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with experience tailored to your specific tax situation. CPAs, in particular, often specialize in various areas, such as estate planning, partnership taxation, or business structures like S-corporations. The key is to ensure that the chosen professional aligns with your unique needs.

  2. Who Should Consider Hiring a Tax Preparer: The article outlines scenarios where hiring a tax preparer is advisable. This includes individuals who have started a business with complex structures, those who are self-employed, experienced changes in their tax situation, sold properties, worked in multiple states, or engaged in various complex financial transactions. Understanding when to seek professional help is crucial for effective tax management.

  3. How to Find a Tax Preparer or CPA: The article provides practical advice on finding a tax preparer, including consulting with industry peers, seeking referrals from professional organizations, and utilizing online reviews. The importance of verifying references and considering expertise in local tax rules is highlighted. Additionally, the article suggests looking beyond geographical constraints, especially with the possibility of remote work in the pandemic era.

  4. Considerations When Choosing a Tax Preparer: The article emphasizes the importance of liking and feeling comfortable with your chosen tax preparer, considering them as a vital member of your financial team. Pricing transparency is crucial, with different professionals charging either fixed fees or hourly rates based on the complexity of tax returns. The article advises potential clients to shop around, seek upfront pricing, and inquire about year-round assistance for more complex tax needs.

  5. Role of CPAs in Comprehensive Financial Management: Beyond tax preparation, the article highlights the broader role of CPAs in comprehensive financial management. This includes handling record-keeping, providing proactive tax advice, and assisting with various financial aspects throughout the year. The article suggests that businesses, in particular, may benefit from a long-term relationship with a CPA who can provide ongoing support beyond annual tax filings.

  6. Communication Preferences: The article addresses the importance of understanding the communication preferences of your tax preparer. Some prefer phone or video discussions, while others may respond to basic queries via email. The current landscape, with remote work being prevalent, has seen a rise in video meetings as a viable alternative to in-person discussions.

By integrating these concepts into your tax preparation journey, you can make informed decisions, optimize your financial strategies, and ensure compliance with the ever-evolving tax landscape.

How To Find The Best Tax Preparer or CPA (2024)
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