19 Mar Need a tax preparer? Here’s how to find the best tax preparer in North Jersey
According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Eighty million Americans use paid tax preparers each year; however, only 40 percent of those tax preparers are tax attorneys, enrolled agents (EAs), and CPAs who must meet mandated professional competency requirements. And while the Internal Revenue Service began to register those tax preparers in 2010 and had plans to implement competency testing and continuing education requirements, a 2014 court case ruled the agency didn’t have the legal authority to do so.
That means the current tax preparation landscape is something like the wild, wild West. Virtually anyone can slap on the label of “tax preparer” and set up business, regardless of whether they have any training in tax laws. Alba, CPA has compiled a list to help you find the best tax preparer in North Jersey.
- Find a Free VITA Tax Preparation Center
Before you even think about paying someone for tax preparation services, see if you’re entitled to it for free. There are two IRS-sponsored free tax preparation programs: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA, and Tax Counseling for the Elderly. These programs give eligible individuals free tax preparation assistance from trained volunteers. The VITA program is open to these groups:
Individuals with incomes of $53,000 or less.
People with disabilities.
Those with limited English-speaking ability.
There are many VITA sites in Bergen County, very close to our Lodi, NJ office. Visit this link http://www.nj211.org/vita09.cfm to find a site near you.
- Consider Using Software
Depending on your income, you may be able to use software for free through the Free File program. If your adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less, head to the IRS Free File site to find software providers that will let you prepare and file your taxes for free using their programs.
But even if you’re not eligible to file a free tax return, you may still want to use software to prepare your own forms. Be aware of the big tax companies offering Free Federal tax filing. They will charge you to E-File, prepare your State taxes, and additional forms. Most are ways to lure you to their sites.
- Interview Several Tax Preparers
If you have a complex tax situation, or you’re simply more comfortable with a human touch, you can start finding the right pro by interviewing with some local tax preparers. Tax preparers in North Jersey come with various backgrounds, personalities and education. Try to talk to at least three tax preparers before settling on the one who seems right for you.
Ask friends and family members for a recommendation and check the internet for any bad reviews or disciplinary action against the tax preparer. You may also visit the IRS website to ensure that they are register with the agency and in good standing. Looking for credentials such as CPA or tax attorney can give you some peace of mind, since NJ CPAs need to register with the state and complete annual education requirements to maintain their license.
Also, if a preparer has a professional license or credential, check with your state licensing board to see if they have been subject to any disciplinary action. For preparers who are enrolled agents, you can also check with the IRS to verify their status.
- Ask About E-Filing
Although there is nothing wrong with filing via snail mail, look for someone who will file electronically. Doing so will significantly reduce the amount of time you have to wait for your refund to arrive. It may also eliminate the potential for delivery problems or misdirected paperwork. The IRS requires paid tax preparers who file more than 10 returns on behalf of clients each year to e-file their forms.
- Find Out What Happens If There’s an Audit
Finally, you want to pick a tax pro who isn’t going to be MIA in the event you get tagged for an audit. Not all tax preparers can represent you in front of the IRS. Be sure to find out what, if any, services your preparer is willing and able to provide. Check the bottom of the tax return to make sure that the preparer information appears on the form as well as their PTIN, EIN, and company information.
Even if you don’t get audited, you don’t want a preparer who is going to file away their paperwork and close shop come April 15. Make sure your preparer will be available to answer questions and provide guidance even after the filing deadline has come and gone.