It’s important to surround yourself in life with the right people. A wise mentor. An encouraging best friend. And, yes, a really great tax advisor.
After all, when the stress of tax season starts to smother you in its icy cold embrace, don’t you want a reliable tax pro on your side? Someone who can help you work through all your tax questions and problems? Of course you do!
But finding a tax advisor you can count on isn’t as easy as it used to be. So, what does a trustworthy tax advisor look like? And how can you find one near you?
We’re going to do a deep dive on the important qualities and things to look for in a tax pro. But first, let’s take a look at why you need one in the first place.
Why Work With a Tax Advisor?
Tax returns are like snowflakes—no two are alike! From the number of kids you have running around the house to those odd jobs you took this year to pay off debt faster, there are dozens of factors that’ll impact how much you’ll owe to Uncle Sam and how much you can save on your taxes from year to year.
Get your taxes done right by the best in the business!
Some folks have a simple enough situation—they can file their taxes themselves with some online tax software. But there are times when you’ll be glad you turned to a pro for help.
Here are some reasons why you probably want to consider working with a tax advisor this year:
- You went through a major life change. Got married? Had a baby? Congrats! Your tax situation is probably going to change, so you’ll want to give your tax pro a call once you’re back from your honeymoon or fully stocked up on diapers.
- You had multiple sources of income or started a business. That extra cash you earned from delivering pizzas or your new wedding photography business is nice! But that also means you might have to deal with different tax forms and issues you haven’t dealt with in the past.
- You’re worried about not getting your taxes done right. There aren’t many words in the English language that are scarier when put together than “tax audit.” After all, no one wants to have their financial life picked apart by the IRS. Having a tax advisor to guide you and help you file your taxes correctly will let you breathe a little easier once Tax Day has come and gone.
Still not sure whether or not you need to get in touch with a tax advisor this year? Take our tax quiz and figure out which option is best for you—it’ll just take a few minutes!
What Should You Look for in a Tax Advisor?
Let’s face it: Taxes are as complicated as they are boring. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, pick up a copy of the U.S. tax code and just start reading. That’ll knock you out real quick.
But tax advisors—the good ones—aren’t like the rest of us. They live, eat and breathe this stuff. They’re up-to-date on all the latest changes and trends happening in Tax World so they can help you understand which tax laws, deductions and credits affect you.
But looking for a tax pro goes beyond head knowledge. Here are eight important qualities you should always look for in a tax advisor before you agree to trust them with your taxes:
1. They are qualified and have the right certifications.
When you’re looking for a tax pro, you’re going to want to work with someone who will give you quality advice. In other words, they know what the flip they’re doing!
When it comes to getting tax advice, find a pro who has one of these two certifications:
- Enrolled Agent: An Enrolled Agent is a tax specialist for people looking for professional tax return preparation and tax advice. Plus, they are licensed by the IRS to represent you if you’re being audited.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Certified Public Accountants specialize in tax preparation and planning, but they can also offer a bunch of other services to help you throughout the year—from bookkeeping to long-term financial planning. If your tax situation is really complicated, a CPA can help with advice on tax strategies to follow based on your circumstances.
Enrolled Agents and CPAs both go through extensive training, testing and continuing education to maintain their credentials and stay up-to-date on tax laws and regulations so that they can better serve you. Someone with just a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) isn’t going to cut it.
Fun fact: Every single one of our tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) is either an Enrolled Agent or a CPA. That means when you work with an ELP, you can rest assured that you’re working with a top-notch pro!
2. They are available all year.
Nowadays, there are a bunch of part-time, fly-by-night tax preparers popping up during tax season only to disappear once they file your tax return, never to be heard from again. Not even on a Christmas card.
Like we said, things happen throughout the year that can have a big effect on how you file your taxes for that tax year. When life happens, having a reliable tax pro who will pick up the phone to answer your tax questions in September (not just January through April) can make a huge difference.
3. They understand your financial goals.
No matter where you are on the Baby Steps, it helps to have a tax advisor who is on the same wavelength as you. That means they take the time to learn about you and your financial goals, so they can give you tax advice that will drive you closer to reaching those goals.
Whether they’re helping you pay off debt faster during the year by adjusting your withholdings or helping you identify potential pros and cons of taking your side hustle to the next level, a great tax advisor is someone who is always looking for ways to help you move the ball further down the field.
4. They make time to answer your tax questions.
When tax terms like “deductions” and “itemizing” and “Adjusted Gross Income” start getting thrown around, your head probably starts to flood with questions. Don’t worry, that’s a completely normal reaction.
Your tax advisor should always be ready to sit down with you and help you answer any and all of your questions about your taxes. That’s what it means to have the heart of a teacher!
If you’re asking questions and your tax advisor rolls their eyes at you or gives you some high-browed answer that leaves you more confused than you were before, it’s probably time to look for a new advisor.
5. They are proactive in communicating with you.
You don’t just want somebody who puts a rubber stamp on your return and walks away. That’s just lazy. You need a tax pro who is going to take the initiative and keep an eye out for things you might need to change for the upcoming year.
Did you get a big refund? No one wants to give the government an interest-free loan. Have you seen how they handle money? A good tax pro will take the time to explain that your employer has been taking too much money out of your paycheck for taxes and show you how to fix it.
Or what if you got slapped with a big tax bill? Your pro should be able to explain why that was the case and how you can avoid getting blindsided next year.
6. They can help you with small business taxes.
If you have a small business or if you’re dreaming about starting one someday, it’s easy to forget about what that means when it comes to your taxes. But you’ll be glad you have a tax pro who has experience working with small-business owners and can help you navigate through small business tax rates, estimated taxes and which deductions you qualify for as a business owner.
7. They can help you with your taxes next year . . . and the year after that.
Having a tax advisor you can turn to year after year can save you from having to explain the same things over and over again to a new random tax preparer every spring. Who has time for that?
Besides, it helps to have a tax advisor who knows you and your tax situation well enough to give you solid advice and strategies to help you reduce your tax bill.
8. They can be trusted with sensitive information about your finances.
Working with a friend or relative on your taxes might be tempting, but do you really want Uncle Joey to know how much you make, how big your mortgage is or even how much you tithe to your church? That could make Thanksgiving dinner kind of awkward!
It’s important that you find a tax advisor you can trust with all the nuts and bolts of your financial situation. Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship—including your relationship with your tax pro!
Find a Tax Advisor You Can Trust
Ready to get in touch with a tax advisor who will treat you like a human being and not just another Tax Identification Number? We have a nationwide network of tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) who are ready to serve you! These are tax professionals in your area who can sit down with you and help you get through tax season without all the stress.