All Tax Preparers are the same
If you’re going to make a mistake when hiring a Tax Professional to help, this is the one you absolutely do not want to make. Preparers come in/with all forms, styles, and qualifications, the difference between preparers can be so extreme that they are not even in the same universe.
CERTIFICATION DOESN’T ALWAYS MATTER
Not only do prepares vary spectacularly, but just because someone has a fancy title doesn’t guarantee they are a good preparer. Tax Preparation is as much an art as it is a science. The facts (rules) are only one part of the equation.
YOU WANT CUSTOMER SERVICE (TECHNICAL SUPPORT)
If you’re going to be paying money to someone to complete your Tax Obligations, then you want someone whose both able and willing to provide you with Customer Service and Technical Support. This is also not as commonplace as you would like to believe. Just like there are good and bad doctors, good and bad lawyers, good and bad auto mechanics, there are good and bad Tax Preparers and you need to judge such a person on more than their title or what they claim.
TRAINING VS EXPERIENCE
Just because someone has received training doesn’t mean they have experience. And just because someone has experience doesn’t mean they are properly trained. At the same time, someone can have training and experience,
…BUT IN WHAT ARE THEY TRAINED AND IN WHAT DO THEY HAVE EXPERIENCE…?
I personally have awesome training and experience handling Sole-Proprietorships (self-employed or independent contractors). I can walk through most of the Tax Related Issues backwards and forwards with little difficulty, however I am not adequately trained (or experienced) to handle a Corporation (which is a business type).
Now I can help a business which is a Corporation with many of the basic business fundamentals, but I just don’t have the needed skills to handle everything.
…So I can say I have Training and Experience, but I need to add both the quality of my training and experience and what it includes.
DATA ENTRY VS KNOWLEDGE
Just because someone has Data Entry Skills doesn’t mean they are Knowledgeable. And just because someone is Knowledgeable doesn’t mean they Data Entry Skills. At the same time, someone can have Data Entry Skills and be Knowledgeable,
…BUT IN WHAT ARE THEY KNOWLEDGEABLE AND IN WHAT DO THEY HAVE DATA ENTRY SKILLS…?
This is really important, so read this carefully. In this world of Tax Preparation almost everything is completed via Computers and Software (including Online Applications), which means there are two levels of ability one needs.
Data Entry is a vital skill because no matter how knowledgeable you are, if you do not know how (where) to enter the data correctly within whatever software (application) you’re using can produce horribly incorrect results. Thus understanding how to use your Software (Application) is every bit as important as being knowledgeable about what you’re doing.
The Knowledge Factor is even more problematic these days then Data Entry Issues. The reason being that with so many of today’s Tax Preparers depend totally and exclusively on Software to make all the decisions, find all the problems, and literally control the results, mistakes are being made which never see the light of day.
I cannot stress this fact enough… SOFTWARE DOES NOT DO ALL THE WORK. I know we all love to assume that technology can do all the hard work, especially when it comes to a mental exercise, but the reality is that technology is a tool no different than a hammer or a nail. It’s a tool that helps us perform needed tasks. It’s outstanding when it comes to mathematical calculations, databases, and resource materials, but human skills are still required to keep everything working properly.
If you’re going to pay someone money for Tax Preparation, make certain they understand the process and are not just pointing and clicking.
Every year without fail I discover issue after issue with the Tax Software I use when it produces inaccurate results simple because I incorrectly enter the correct information in the wrong place. If I would not understand what I am doing these mistakes would just be processed through the system as if they were correct.
AND HERE’S THE KICKER…
Many errors made in Tax Preparation do not get caught until long after the Tax Return has been accepted and forgotten. Remember, the IRS has three years to review and audit Tax Returns and if they find a problem after-the-fact, you are still 100% liable. That means if you receive a false refund which you have already spent, you still have to pay that money back to the United States Treasury.