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For many people the tax return period is like a visit to the dentist, it is a time that you dread, but one that has to be faced head on and cannot be avoided.

preparation of income taxesMany people have decided that it makes more sense to employ the services of a tax preparer who is an expert in the field to complete this laborious task for them. The problem is how do you choose a good task preparer? This article although primarily focused on the California system, but many of the points made will apply across the country, just be certain to check the legalities in your state.

Question 1 Do You Have A PTIN?

This is the most important question you need to ask of anyone who offers to complete your tax return for payment. The PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) is a legal requirement for anyone who wishes to complete tax returns for payment. The last thing you want to do is complete the entire process with an individual only to discover that he or she does not possess a PTIN number.  A PTIN number is only valid for a year so ensure that everyone who you speak to or interview has a current valid PTIN number. This can be checked by visiting Inland Revenue Service Online Directory.

Question 2 What Is Your Area Of Tax Expertise?

There are many fields of taxation including small business, personal finance, and auditing to name a few. Whenever you are employing someone to prepare your tax return, you need to be satisfied that they have the expertise in that area of tax which applies to your specific requirements.

Question 3 Are you aware of the specific legal requirements about California Tax Preparation?

Each state has the jurisdiction over how taxes need to be filed. That is why when it comes to California it is essential that your tax preparer has completed the California tax preparer certification. This is a specific qualification designed and approved by the California Tax Education Council (CTEC), and anyone who has completed this course will be fully aware of all the legal requirements within California. A tax preparer who qualified in Nashville Tennessee, on the other hand, may not be aware of any minor differences, between the states, so this is another important question to ask.

Question 4 Where Did You Complete Your Qualification?

The CTEC Tax Preparer certification can be completed at a standard college, via a home study course or by taking a CTEC 60 hour course online. Anyone who is qualified will be more than happy to show you their qualification and tell you where and when they passed the course.

Question 5 Who Will Sign My Return?

This may seem a rather strange question to ask, but only a tax preparer with a valid PTIN can sign a tax return. If a tax preparer is not prepared to sign your return or tries to encourage you to sign as self-prepared, this should set the warning bells ringing. Any qualified and reliable tax preparer will be more than happy to sign your forms and put their PTIN number on it. If they are not prepared to do this do NOT use them.

Question 6 Will You Provide Me With A Copy Of My Tax Return?

This is another favorite question I like to ask, as it offers some clues as to the quality and suitability of a tax preparer. Unfortunately, due to its very nature, the tax return period forces a lot of work to be completed in a short period. Although you shouldn’t expect to walk out of the office with a copy of the tax return in your hand on the day, you should certainly get a copy within a reasonable period. If the tax preparer cannot confirm a date by which you should receive a copy this could be a good indication that they are at best poor at time management. This is not a good characteristic for a tax preparer and would be another reason not to choose that candidate.

These six questions may seem relatively basic, but the answers the various candidates provide to them should enable you to choose the most appropriate candidate.