By Chris Whiting, CFP®, Executive Vice President, Director of Sales and Marketing

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Many people currently use or are considering hiring a tax professional to help with taxes.  There can be many great reasons to partner with a tax specialist:  perhaps you have a complicated tax situation, own your own business, had a major life event, or just would like an expert to help you navigate a complex tax code.  In short, you’re trying to ensure you’re filing a timely and accurate return and minimizing taxes.  If you’re using a tax preparer, it’s important that you work effectively with them during this process.  By proactively asking a few questions, you can ensure you are maximizing the relationship and getting the best advice possible.

  1. What documents do I need to get together? You may already be familiar with the usual forms (W-2, 1099, etc.), but there may have been changes in the tax requirements or your situation where you’ll need additional documentation. It’s also important to keep your tax preparer updated with any changes in your personal circumstances such as a new home, job, new baby, marriage or divorce. These and other circumstances can affect your tax situation and may require you to provide additional information.
  2. What process will we use to share documents and other information with each other? Many tax professionals use online document vaults to securely upload and share information – if so, please refer to #5 below.
  3. When can I review my return and how will you communicate with me? It is important to make sure you feel comfortable with the data on your return as you are legally responsible for that information. Determine if the tax professional will call you or communicate via e-mail so you don’t miss anything important and can respond to issues in a timely way.
  4. When will you file my return? Some tax preparers don’t file until the last minute—no matter how soon you get them your documents. Other tax professionals may suggest extending your return filing date. By asking this question, you can avoid a miscommunication in which you are expecting a quick refund while they are swamped or awaiting additional information and not able to file until mid-April or beyond.
  5. How are you protecting my information? Many of us have been victims of identity theft and are motivated to do all we can to prevent it from happening again. Ask questions such as “how is my personal information stored?”, “How robust is your security software?”, “Does it have multi-factor authentication?”, etc.
  6. Are you available outside of tax season? If you receive correspondence from the IRS or need to amend a previous return, confirm you have assistance no matter what time of year it is.  And if so, what additional costs may be associated with this effort.
  7. What about next year? Now that your tax pro has reviewed your tax situation, are there tax strategies and suggestions to help reduce your 2019 tax bill? Getting ideas early in the year will make it easier to consider and implement before year-end. Ask if your tax preparer will work with other professionals such as your attorney and financial advisor to make certain all of your planning and goals are taken into consideration.

Tax season can be a headache, but developing a good relationship with an experienced tax preparer can help make it as painless as possible.

Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. does not provide tax advice, therefore it is also important to consult with your tax professional for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.