As a U.S. business operator, it’s imperative to have someone competent and trustworthy to handle tax preparations. While this may seem to be an intimidating requirement, it’s good to know just what to look for in a good tax preparer. Whether it’s a certified public accountant or an enrolled agent, a U.S. business owner needs to know how to look for an individual’s credentials, how to clearly communicate your business needs, and to verify that your tax information has been properly transmitted and filed with the appropriate agencies.
Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
A CPA serves as an accounting professional that has earned certification from the state they operate in, making them ideal for businesses operating in one area. A CPA possess the ability to write audited financial statements which can be provided to business investors. As such, a CPA can provide a variety of financial services aside from tax preparation. Try looking for “tax accountant near me.”
Enrolled Agents (EA)
An EA specializes in tax preparation services, focusing almost exclusively on the tax arrangements. Certified by federal authorities, an EA represents the very top of the financial professional food chain. While not as versatile in services as a CPA, an EA can be a fantastic resource when dealing with tax-related issues, including auditing and representation. Try looking for “tax professional near me.”
Compile a list of potential tax accountants
With a basic understanding between a CPA and an EA, a U.S. business owner should start their search for a professional tax preparer by making a list of the potential candidates.
While this may seem as simple as entering “tax preparation services near me” into a search engine, the business owner needs to consider their own unique business needs before proceeding. Does the business operate in one area, or in multiple cities? Does the business operate outside of its home state? How many employees does the business employ?
Depending on these questions, a business owner might decide benefit more from a local tax professional with knowledge of local business practices, so a CPA might be the best choice. A multi-state business, by comparison, could benefit more from an EA due to the focus on federal taxation laws.
After considering a CPA or an EA, a business owner should then start researching the tax preparer.
Check for social proofs
- Verify their credentials.
Does the CPA have state certification, and can they provide that certification upon request? Does the EA have federal certification, and can they provide that certification upon request? If the tax preparer hesitates to provide certification, that should be a big red flag. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. You’re looking to hire them, so you need to verify their credentials.
- Read online reviews.
If online reviews have been published on the tax preparer, take the time to review them. Keep in mind that reviews represent the individual reviewer’s mood when they wrote the review, so while a business owner should not dismiss a bad review offhand, they should consider the writer’s mood.
- Make an appointment.
Schedule an interview with the tax preparer and meet them face-to-face, whether in person or over a video conference call. This allows both parties to meet and come to an understanding of what’s expected from the professional relationship. And just like dating, if the interview leaves the business owner with a bad feeling, don’t hesitate to walk away and start again.
So What to Look for in a Tax Preparer?
While the fine details will vary depending on the individual tax preparer, the universal requirements should always include professional certification, a listing of past accomplishments, a detailed listing of the tax preparer’s services, and the ability to communicate directly and clearly with the business owner. That last requirement will be paramount; if a business owner cannot get in contact with the tax preparer, then everyone’s time will be wasted.
Aside from those standards, a U.S. business owner should always trust their instincts about what they need in a tax preparer and the services being offered by a professional candidate.
Pro tips for Hiring Tax Preparer Near You
As stated before, the U.S. does not require all businesses to use a tax preparer. As such, the decision to hire a CPA or an EA rests with the individual business owner, who ultimately has the best understanding of their business needs.
Depending on those business needs, the business owner should not hesitate to consider going against the assumed responses, such as considering professional tax preparers outside of the immediate business area or hiring an EA even if the business only employs two people.
The best thing a business owner can do when considering a tax preparer would be to take the time and properly do the research before making a decision. Because so many individuals and businesses claim to offer tax preparation services, a business owner needs to research their options to make the best decision. Don’t wait until the last second, and don’t wait until tax season to hire a professional. Be prepared, and trust the business instinct.