ATLANTA - This year, according to the IRS, taxpayers are delaying filing their returns. Which means, between now and deadline day, many of you will still be hunting for a tax preparer.
There are a lot of good options for tax prep. You can do it the old-fashioned way by pen and paper. You can use online software, or you can hire someone.
Many of us pay someone to do it for us because we are unsure about doing it ourselves. But, know that there are tax preparers with many different skills and different education levels.
We are going to highlight five tax preparer options. Let's start with these more highly skilled folks. And I say that because they have what are called "unlimited rights," which mean they can represent you to the IRS if you're audited; if you have collections issues or if you appeal. They have broad representation.
In this group, the average person is more likely to use an ENROLLED AGENTS They are licensed by the IRS. They have to pass a special exam. And if you're not happy with your enrolled agent you can complain to the IRS.
Then there is your CPA - a certified public accountant. They're licensed through state boards. They can handle challenging tax returns, but they also help in tax planning.
You can hire an ATTORNEY. Some attorneys specialize in tax prep and some come to the table with double degrees - both law and accounting degrees. Now, most of us don't need that, but some of us do. You'll pay for that expertise though.
Now here's another section of tax preparers - those with limited rights. This means a few things. They can only represent clients if they actually did the return for them And their representation is limited to IRS customer service reps and revenue agents.
PTIN HOLDERS and ANNUAL FILING SEASON PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS. Both groups of tax preparers are not credentialed in the way we talked about earlier. In the Program Participant category these folks have received 18 hours of tax prep education. The IRS keeps a database of their names which means they've been given the OK to do your return.
And lastly, all tax preparers have to be an IRS "PTIN holder" if they get money to prepare returns. But this is your least credentialed group if they have no degree, no classes, no certification, no continuing education, just the PTIN. They simply have permission by the IRS to do your return for a fee.
And lastly a quick reminder, this year deadline is Tuesday, April 18.