When choosing the right professional to handle your tax preparation, the most important factor is not the talent but the location. Depending on where you are, you definitely want someone who works close by, preferably in the same city as you. It’s merely because city, county, and state lines undeniably matter when making sure you’re not only paying your taxes correctly but getting the right deductions and developing the right long term tax strategy.
Chain: The Cheap and Probably Acceptable Choice
Tax preparation services are the simple choice if your tax preparation needs aren’t complicated or burdened. The people employed by these places might not be the class of tax pros you want, but they’re trained to know the local tax codes and will definitely not hold back any obvious and important tax information. They can have a tendency to skip over a personalized assessment of your tax circumstances and miss buried deductions due to their commission-based minimum wage pay.
Enrolled Agent: Top Notch and Sometime Top Dollar
An enrolled agent is typically someone who either worked for the IRS in the past or passed the IRS certification examination. They will more likely than not be experts of federal level tax information but could be less knowledgeable about the ins and outs of your local tax law. Because they’re federally licensed and have direct experience with the Internal Revenue Service, expect higher fees for the privileged information. But don’t forget that the IRS is humorless and so those who’ve worked for them probably are too.
Certified Public Accountant: The All-Arounder
CPAs are accountants who have successfully passed the state accounting exam. Whether or not they are talented tax preparers is a matter of individual skill, but on the whole CPAs are the best bet when devising a tax strategy. You might even get lucky and find one that can help you do basic internet stock research based on your projected financial future when taxes are factored into your potential investments. This is especially true if a recent event like a divorce or death of a loved one has caused an unfortunate radical change in your financial world; someone with a general grasp of finance can help with many of the associated facets involved. Not all CPAs are tax experts, but many of them are, and all it takes is a little research to find one that is both fairly priced and has the know-how to help you plan your taxable years ahead.
Tax Attorney: The Ferrari of Tax Preparers
The more complicated your tax requirements, the more likely you’re going to need an attorney who specializes in tax law. True, you’ll be spending a lot more. However, with that added cost comes assurance in discussing even the most dubious of tax law and loopholes with someone who is an expert on those sorts of things. Tax lawyers are best for people with six- and seven-figure incomes who need someone who not only knows tax law, but the penalties for breaking those laws.
Picking the right tax expert depends upon which option is the most sensible for your situation and which is a waste of money. If you spend enough time looking you’ll find the correct tax preparer. Odds are they’re right around the corner.
Photo Credit: JD Hancock