Several years ago, after the completion my CFP® coursework, I was searching for practical guidance in tax preparation. I enrolled in the H&R Block tax course. I was seeking a pencil to paper type experience after the high level learning in taxation from the CFP® tax course.
I breezed through the Block course and did walk away with the experience I desired. I was able to get comfortable with some of the more complex tax forms and put my CFP® knowledge to the test. Of course, after completion of the Block course, their recruiters tried to sink their claws into me, but I politely declined. I knew I didn’t want to participate in a “drive through” tax preparation system.
There are many choices in tax preparers, and choosing the right preparer is important. Making a poor choice can be an expensive decision. The preparer/client relationship is essential, and I certainly see evidence of disconnected relationships by the number of tax return mistakes I find on prospective client’s returns.[See Troy’s tips on Why The New Tax Deadline Doesn’t Matter]
Most mistakes I find are due to a lack of communication. How does the client know what information the preparer needs if the preparer doesn’t ask for it? And, how does the preparer know what info is needed if he/she doesn’t know the client?
Building a good client/preparer relationship takes time, and, unfortunately, the “drive through” tax prep services seen in many forms across the country doesn’t allow for time. If you want a relationship, you will have to pay for it, but the price you pay will be worth the cost. A preparer who knows you and your situation is golden when it comes to seeking out additional deductions.
If your return is very simple, say just a w-2, one the many national chain type preparers would be fine to utilize. But, if your return has any hint of complexity, it’s worth the additional expense to find a preparer who will take the needed time to complete the return thoroughly.
If you are searching for a tax pro this season, ask questions and explore the potential relationship. How thoroughly will your return be prepared? Will you have the ability to ask questions and receive acceptable answers? Will you have the ability to build a relationship that will position you to save tax dollars now and in the future? Remember, the preparer you are looking for and need may not be the least expensive option.