I’ve written before about selecting your tax preparer. I’ve received several requests from people to write about how to verify the preparer is actually good.
While quantifying the quality is a difficult task, verifying that the preparer is properly licensed is now a very easy task, thanks to the IRS.
Using this site, you can look up any tax preparer and see what kind of license he/she has. You can also search for preparers with a specific license based on area/name, however the search results do not provide any contact information.
So now you can verify that the preparer who’s working on your tax return is a) properly licensed and b) can provide services advertised.
For example, only Enrolled Agents (EA), Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and attorneys can provide tax advice, i.e.: suggest you course of action, tell you what action will trigger which tax consequences, do tax planning, or provide authority for tax opinions adverse to the current regulations. Anyone else can only prepare tax return and make decisions only limited to the scope of such preparation.
Keep in mind however, that the IRS tool only provides information about professionals registered with the IRS. CPA/Attorney who doesn’t prepare tax returns – can provide tax advice without being registered with the IRS. So if you can’t find the name of your adviser – check with your State accountancy board or bar. However, that adviser cannot prepare a tax return for you, even if a duly licensed CPA/Attorney, without being registered with the IRS and appear in that listing. Enrolled Agents are registered with the IRS by definition, so they should always appear in the listing.
Also, tax preparers who have no credentials and haven’t joint the AFSP program will not appear in the listing despite being allowed to provide tax preparation services. If your tax preparer is in that group – you can verify the credentials by asking the preparer to show you the PTIN card. PTIN card is provided annually by the IRS to anyone who’s registered to prepare tax returns for others for that year. A preparer with PTIN card only can only prepare tax returns, and only during the period the PTIN card is valid.
Have a safe tax season!
Your Little Advisor