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Six Traits To Look For In An Accountant

Feb 5, 2008
If you have your taxes prepared professionally by an accountant, it's going to cost you about $200, not a small amount of money. However, can you afford not to have this done?

Most people miss at least $100 in deductions, which means that they pay too much money in for taxes and get too little back. This means that if you don't hire an accountant, it's going to cost you a lot.

Now that you know what you have to do, here are six suggestions that will help you pick the right accountant:

1. Pick an accountant you're actually going to meet in person, and talk with him or her at some length. It's best not to go to a big chain where just about anyone can handle your taxes. You might need your accountant at some other point in the year besides just tax time, and typically, big chains hire accountants in just from January through April. During off-season, it's probably going to take more work than it's worth to get a few simple questions answered.

2. It's likely going to cost you more to hire a big chain that it will an individual accountant. Why? Even though big chains look cheaper on the surface, when you read the fine print, you might find out that each deduction found for you is charged separately. These chains can also charge you to guarantee the accuracy of their work. An individual accountant can give you better service for less money, and will guarantee their work without charging extra to do so.

3. Credentials matter. You need a licensed professional, why you ask? Only a licensed professional-CPA, EA or tax lawyer can represent you in court. The only states that license additional tax professionals are Oregon and California. Therefore, almost anyone that wants to can claim to be a tax professional, but don't be fooled. You can't have Tom, Dick or Harry represent you in court, so why would you risk it?

4. Ask for referrals and references. If friends or relatives have been happy with the accountant they are using, chances are you will be, too. Similar to picking out your dentist, or physician, word-of-mouth is often a very good way to go.

5. Expect good service. If calls are not returned or the accountant otherwise acts in an unprofessional manner, find someone else. Taxes are stressful enough without having to put up with unprofessional behavior from your accountant.

6. Your expectations should be reasonable. Remember that your accountant can only work with what he or she is given. Therefore, if you are not responsible or have bad records, it's likely that the results aren't going to be perfect. However, your accountant can do the best job possible, and he or she may also be able to help you become better at keeping tax records yourself. Take advice from them as long as you trust them, and maybe taxes won't be so stressful next time.
About the Author
Author Delano Vestal writes for Baskfield and Associates, a CPA in Rogers MN. Baskfield and Associates specializes in small business and personal accounting and tax preperation. As a
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