Choosing a Tax Preparer Who is Right for You
If you choose to use a paid tax preparer, it is important that you find a qualified professional. Even if someone else prepares your return, you are still responsible for the content and for any additional payments, penalty and interest that may result from an error.
Michigan does not require tax preparers to be licensed. However, many are licensed and certified, belonging to professional organizations that require a certain level of education and provide on-going training. Unqualified tax preparers may overlook legitimate deductions and/or credits, which could result in you paying more tax than you should. Services vary from preparer to preparer, so you will want to find one who offers the services you need.
First, Check Things Out
Asking questions is worth the time it takes to make sure you are hiring someone with the skill level you need to prepare your taxes at a price you can afford. The following are suggested questions to ask before you engage the services of a tax preparer:
- What kind of formal tax training do you have?
- Do you hold any professional licenses or designations, such as certified public accountant (CPA), enrolled agent (EA), registered accounting practitioner (RAP), accredited tax advisor (ATA), or accredited tax preparer (ATP)?
- Do you take continuing professional education classes each year? How many hours do you take?
- How long have you been preparing taxes?
- Have you ever done a tax return dealing with my situation?
- How much do you charge and how do you determine your fee?
- Are you open year-round to assist me with any problems I may have later?
- Do you offer e-filing as a service?
- Are you authorized to and will you represent me in an audit or collection matter with the IRS or the Michigan Department of Treasury should the situation come up?
- How do you stand behind your work?
- Can you provide me with the names of references I can contact about the quality of your work? Think about checking with the Better Business Bureau in your area for complaints about the services provided by the preparer.
- If the refund is direct deposited, is it deposited into my account or into an account owned by you and/or your company?
Other Points to Consider
- Avoid those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers or those who "guarantee" results.
- Avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of the amount of your refund.
- Choose someone you can reach after the return is filed and who is responsive to your needs.
- Remember that e-filed returns are usually processed faster than returns that are mailed. E-filed returns are still subject to review, and you should rely on Treasury for the time frames for processing returns, not the preparer.
Important Things to Remember
- Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of all information on their return.
- Do not sign the return until you review it. Make sure all your personal information is correct (Social Security number, address, number of exemptions, sources and kinds of income, etc.)
- Never sign a blank form and never sign in pencil.
- You can allow Treasury to discuss this return with the tax preparer by checking the authorization box on the line just below your signature.
- Tax preparers must sign the return, fill in the preparer areas of the form(s) and provide you with a copy. Do not walk out the door without a copy of your return, as filed, in hand. Keep the copy of your return you are provided for future reference.
Other Helpful Information
- The National Association of Enrolled Agents website allows you to locate an enrolled agent in your local area by zipcode.
- The Michigan Association of CPAs
- Free tax help can be found on the following web sites: