What’s the best way to set up a consultation or an appointment with a tax preparer during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The best way to conduct an appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic is virtually, as this will ensure that you remain within the CDC's social distancing guidelines.
Ask tax professional near you if they would be willing to give a consultation via phone call, Zoom, Skype or other video conferencing software to discuss the scope of work. Also, ask them how they handle payments and whether they will be able to conduct all of their services remotely.
To find out which services are deemed essential in your area, visit the official government website of your state or city and look for information about essential services.
For information on a national level, visit CISA’s publication on critical infrastructure workers. However, not all jurisdictions follow CISA’s definitions of critical infrastructure.
If you decide to hire a tax preparer near you, ask if the tax preparation can be handled remotely. Most accounting firms and tax preparers may be willing to offer this. Before you hire a tax preparer, contact them and ask about their procedure for working virtually.
Hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) could be a better option instead of doing your taxes by yourself, but it depends on your tax situation and preferences. Having a CPA do your taxes is usually recommended if you have a business or any type of side job, or if you’ve been contacted by the IRS for a tax-related matter. Others who can benefit are those who own rental properties or have many assets. You can also hire a CPA if you need help understanding what deductions or credit you might qualify for.
A tax preparer can take the form of several different job titles, but they must have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) to be authorized to prepare federal tax returns, according to the IRS. Some titles may include enrolled agents, who are licensed by the IRS, as well as certified public accountants (CPAs). Some tax attorneys may offer tax preparation and planning services, though not all are qualified to do this.
There are several reasons it could be worth it to have an experienced professional do your taxes instead of self-filing. For example, it can help reduce the chance of you making a mistake that could land you in trouble with the IRS. And, it could save you time for other important tasks. If you have a side job, rental property or many assets, having someone do your taxes can pay off in the short- and long-run.
Contact several tax professionals near you to discuss your needs and get free estimates. Then, decide if hiring a pro is right for you.
Contact local CPAs or tax professionals to see if they can offer their services without in-person contact. Many firms can operate remotely or virtually, and others that typically operate face-to-face may be changing their procedures to keep up with social distancing guidelines.
Before you hire a tax professional, visit their business profile to see how they handle payments. Many CPAs and tax experts accept digital payments through Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, Zelle and other online platforms. More businesses may be changing their payment methods to accommodate social distancing. Check with your tax preparer to see how they handle payments.
It is not typically necessary for a tax preparer to enter your home. Many CPAs and tax professionals operate remotely. Ask the tax professional if they can conduct their services remotely, and see what precautions they have in place during social distancing.
Any individual with a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) is eligible to file your income taxes on your behalf. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the best candidate to provide the help you need with your income tax preparation. The IRS explains that CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents are all allowed to legally represent their clients before the IRS. They have a more thorough understanding of tax code than an individual operating solely with a PTIN or an Annual Filing Season Program participant who provides their services on a volunteer basis. Consider the complexity of your tax return and what level of expertise you’ll require. Before entrusting someone with your private financial and personal information, do some research on their qualifications. The IRS has a searchable database where you can verify the background and credentials of your income tax preparation professional. Once you have selected someone, ask about their service fees and confirm their availability. Then provide them with all the documentation they require, including W-2s, 1099s and more. Always ask to review the paperwork before it is submitted, and never sign a blank tax return.