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Make the Most of Your Consultation with a Tax Accountant
Make the Most of Your Tax Consultation

Make the Most of Your Tax Consultation

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More than 80 million tax returns were filed with the help of a tax professional in 2019. Were you one of the Americans who used a tax professional? 

Were you prepared for your tax consultation? Were you happy with your representation? Did you use a tax accountant or another professional? If you have a pro you trust and love, great!  

For those who aren’t satisfied or who do not have a tax accountant, check out this blog post for a complete guide to making the most of your first tax accountant consultation, your first meeting with a tax professional.

This post will start by going over the different kinds of tax advisors for you and explaining why you could use one. What are your tax and business needs? Do you only need help with your taxes, or could you use some help with other business services? 

If you are a small business owner, you may find that an accountant can help further your business objectives. Accountants are well-rounded and can do many things, including business development and financial planning.

Next, this post will discuss why it’s important to find the right tax accountant. Then, we’ll get you ready for the tax accountant consultation by providing you with a complete list on what to bring with you to the meeting, what questions to ask yourself before you go, and a complete list of questions for you to ask the tax accountant so that you can decide if he or she is right for you.

Finally, this post will help you make the best decision by showing you how to make a weighted pros and cons list. That will assist you if you are weighing the decision of which accountant to hire. There’s also a final nugget of information on even more advantages to having a tax accountant, so buckle up! Are you ready?

What is a Tax Consultant?

A tax consultant is a tax professional who specializes in tax laws. An accountant may be a tax consultant if he or she specializes in taxation. There are many types of tax professionals; the right one for you depends on the type of tax help you need. There are CPAs (certified public accountants) and enrolled agents who each have their own areas of expertise.

Are you looking for someone who can provide tax planning and filing? Would you like to have the services of a tax professional who can help you year-round? 

Do you want the help of an accountant who can discuss more than just your annual federal tax return with you? It all depends on your needs. Tax professionals can cover a wide range of specialties.

Why Do You Need a Tax Accountant?

There are many advantages to having a tax accountant. The main one is that a tax accountant has a better understanding of the IRS tax code and laws which can greatly benefit you. This should help you reduce your tax liabilities, which can also help you improve your financial portfolio. Tax accountants also offer other business services, including monthly, quarterly, and on-demand assistance.

Want to know more about the benefits of having a tax accountant on your payroll? Check out the “More Benefits” section at the bottom of this post for more valuable information on why you need a tax accountant or check out this CNBC article.

The Importance of Hiring the Right Tax Accountant for You

It’s important to find the right tax accountant for you for several reasons. First, you need to be comfortable with the person. After all, they cannot offer you tax advice if you don’t feel at ease enough around them to ask those personal financial questions

If you have deep, dark fears when it comes to tax season, you need someone who can alleviate your worries and help with any tax issues you have, a person that you can share your tax goals with, someone you are at ease around. Keep in mind that although you want to find someone who is friendly, you still need someone professional, so find a middle ground.

Second, this person or firm will be handling your sensitive, private information. You want a reputable accountant to handle your personal business; you need to trust them. You should not have to worry about identity theft or anything as their professional code of ethics and secure networks should offer additional security; you need to know your private documents are safe and will be returned to you.

Finally, you can hopefully depend on this person to take care of your tax needs and save you a lot of money by offering you financial and/or tax advice. Check out these tips on how to best hire a tax accountant.

The right tax accountant can help you with more than just your income taxes. They can offer you sound financial and business advice, helping you grow your business and stay legal at the same time. Most accountants can do more than just taxes; most can provide you with valuable business consulting.

How to Prepare for Your Tax Consultation

It’s very important to be organized and ready when meeting a tax professional. Many tax consultants will give you a free consultation, but you may be limited in the amount of time you have with them. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have all your questions and documentation in order and ready to go!

If you are paying for your consultation, you should limit your questions to the most crucial ones, the ones you need to have answers to determine if they are the right person to handle your accounting needs. 

Check out their website before you go for your visit. See if any of your questions are answered on their site or blog. You may be able to figure out how they handle certain situations by just looking at their website.

Before your consultation, talk with the tax accountant or his/her office, and ask what they need you to bring. Ask them what records they will need for your initial consultation. Tell them why you are meeting with the tax accountant and see what they suggest you bring. 

They may have a document called a “Tax Organizer” that they will have you fill out and bring with your relevant paperwork. It will organize a list of tax documents you should bring.

Think long and hard about your tax goals, financial objectives, and the specific reasons you are wanting to hire this person. It may help you to take notes on your observations if you are comparing different tax professionals.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Tax Consultation

  • What is my budget for financial help?
  • How much do I want to spend on a tax accountant?
  • What traits am I looking for in a tax professional?
  • What are my financial objectives?
  • What are my tax goals and how can an accountant help?

Review your list of questions for the tax accountant before you go and be certain that you understand your needs and worries. Make sure you can explain everything well.

What to Bring to Your Tax Consultation

There are many things you are going to want to bring to your appointment. Although they should have these things available, it never hurts to bring a writing utensil, a notepad, and a list of questions that you plan to ask the tax professional, time permitting.

Category
What to Bring
Wages, Salaries, and Tips
Forms W-2
Interest Income
Forms 1099-INT
Dividend Income
Forms 1099-DIV
Pensions, IRS and Gambling Income
Forms 1099-R & W-2G
Other Government Forms – Income
Form 1099-B – Sale of Stock (and transaction history)
Form 1099-MISC – Miscellaneous Income
Form 1099-K – Merchant card and third-party network payments
Form 1099-S – Sales of real estate with all closing statements
Form 1099-G – State returns/refunds
Form SSA-1099 – Social security benefits
Form 1099-Q – 529 Plan
Form 1099-QA/5498-QA (ABLE Accounts)
Form K-1 – from Partnerships, S-Corporations, and Trusts
Miscellaneous Income
Alimony received
Retirement Plan Contributions
Form 5498
Traditional IRA contributions
Roth IRS contributions
Self-employed, SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plan contributions
Affordable Care Act
Form 1095-A – Health insurance marketplace statement
Form 1095-B – Health coverage
Form 1095-C – Employer-provided health insurance offer and coverage
Taxes
Previous tax returns plus back-up documentation
State and Local Taxes Paid
Record of payment
Real Estate and Personal Property Taxes Paid
Real Estate statements for a principal residence, investment property, and personal property
Home Mortgage Interest
Home Mortgage Statements

If you answer YES to any of these questions for the past tax year, you may want to be able to provide the tax accountant with additional supporting documentation:

Personal

    • Did your marital status change during the year?
    • Did your address change during the year?
    • Could you be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return?

Dependents

    • Were there any changes in your dependents?
    • Did you and your dependents have health care coverage for the full year?

Income

    • Did you cash any savings bonds?
    • Did you receive disability income?
    • Did you have any foreign income and/or pay foreign taxes?

Purchases, Sales, or Debt

    • Did you receive, sell, send, or exchange any financial interest in any virtual currency?
    • Did you buy or sell any stocks, bonds, or other investment property last year?
    • Did you purchase or dispose of any business assets?
    • Did you start a business or farm?
    • Did you purchase rental or royalty property?
    • Did you acquire an interest in a partnership, S corporation, trust, or REMIC?
    • Did you purchase or sell any home, or did you take a home equity loan?
    • Did you make any residential energy-efficient improvements or purchases?
    • Did you have any debts forgiven during the year?

Retirement Plans

    • Did you receive a distribution from a retirement plan?
    • Did you contribute to a retirement plan?
    • Did you transfer any amount from one retirement plan to another one?

Education

    • Did you receive a distribution from an Education Savings Account or any other qualified program?
    • Did you, your spouse, or a dependent incur any tuition expenses that are required to attend school?

Estimated Taxes

    • Did you apply an overpayment of taxes to your estimated taxes?
    • Do you expect your taxable income and withholdings to be different from the last tax year?
    • Did you make any estimated tax payments for the tax year?

Miscellaneous

    • Did you receive a distribution from a foreign trust?
    • Did you incur a loss because of stolen or damaged property?
    • Did you work out of town for part of the year?
    • Did you use your car on the job (other than going to and from work)?
    • Was your home rented out or used for business?
    • Did you have a medical savings account or acquire an interest in an MSA?
    • Were you a policyholder who received payments under long-term care (LTC) insurance contract or received any accelerated death benefits from a life insurance policy?
    • Did you incur moving expenses due to a change in employment?
    • Did you engage the services of any household employees?
    • Did you or your spouse make any gifts to an individual that total more than $15,000 or any gifts to a trust?
    • Were you notified or audited by either the IRS or the State taxing agency?

What Questions to Ask the Tax Accountant

Personal Questions

    • What is your availability outside of tax season?
    • What is your policy on returning calls/emails?
    • What’s the best way to stay in contact with you?
    • Will you be able to help me with my tax goals?
    • Will you be able to represent me if I am audited?
    • Will I be working with you directly from now on?

Professional Experience Questions

    • What is your tax background?
    • What are your specialty areas?
    • What are your credentials? What licenses do you hold?
    • How long have you been preparing tax returns?
    • How much professional education do you get each year?
    • What kinds of clients do you normally work with?
    • What’s your experience with the IRS?
    • Do you have other clients in my industry?
    • Are you familiar with the requirements of the state that I need to file in?

Actionable Questions

    • What changes can I make that would help my business?
    • What documentation do you need from me to get started?
    • What information/documentation do I need to keep?
    • How can I improve my tax situation?
    • What can I do to reduce my tax bill?
    • What changes can I make for next year?

Pricing and Servicing Questions

    • How do you charge for your services? 
    • How are your fees calculated? 
    • Can you provide me with a breakdown of your services? 
    • How much will it cost for you to review my previous tax returns?
    • What can I do to help you with your work to keep your fees minimal?
    • What other business services do you offer clients?

General Tax Questions

    • How can you help me make this tax season better than last year’s?
    • What is your tax prep process/timeline?
    • Am I paying too much, too little, or just the right amount of tax?
    • How much of my home office, vehicle, household bills/equipment, and travel expenses are deductible?
    • What are the special requirements for business deductions?
    • What other business expenses can I deduct?
    • Do I qualify for the qualified business income deduction?
    • What happens if I get audited?

What to Ask Yourself After Your Consultation

  • Were you comfortable discussing your finances with them?
  • Do you genuinely like them? Did you get along with them?
  • Were they professional and did you like the way you were treated?
  • Did you feel like they answered questions to your satisfaction?
  • Were their answers clear? Do you understand what to do next?
  • Do they have an efficient timeline for helping you with your taxes?
  • If you had to pay for the consultation, do you feel it was worth it?
  • Was the staff friendly enough? Did you like the office environment?

How to Choose Which Tax Accountant to Hire – A Weighted Decision

Are you still deciding on which tax accountant to hire? Are you struggling with this decision? Use a decision matrix to help you decide which accountant is best for you.
Pros
Cons
He/She was very professional
The cost of the services was more than I was planning to pay
He/She is very knowledgeable about business and taxes
He/She doesn’t offer services outside of tax season
He/She had most of the qualities I’m looking for in an accountant
His/Her office isn’t located in a convenient location for me

A simple pros and cons list, right? The problem with a simple pros and cons list is that you have a list on both sides, but you don’t exactly know which side weighs more than the other.

If the decision is obvious to you, great! Don’t look any further; you have your answer. However, if you are at a stand-still because you don’t know which way to go, then you probably need a weighted pros and cons list. 

A weighted pros and cons list takes each pro/con and gives it a number, a weight on a scale of 1 to 10 of how important it is to you. If cost is a major factor to you, “The cost of his services was more than I was planning to pay” con should be weighted a 10. So, let’s look at the table again with weights.

Weight
Pros
Cons
Weight
3
He/She was very professional
The cost of the services was more than I was planning to pay
10
4
He/She is very knowledgeable about business and taxes
He/She doesn’t offer services outside of tax season
6
9
He/She had most of the qualities I’m looking for in an accountant
His/Her office isn’t located in a convenient location for me
9
16
Total Pros
Total Cons
25

So, in this hypothetical example, the total pros were 16, and the total cons were 25. Since the cons won, it looks like this tax accountant doesn’t fit well with you. Keep looking but remember that it is taking up your time and money each time you meet with another accountant. 

More Advantages to Having a Tax Professional

Once you find the right tax professional for you, you should take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge and expertise that he or she has. You should be able to share your tax goals and your tax worries with your accountant.

The benefit of having a great tax accountant is that they can do more than just file your taxes; they will be there for you after tax season to answer any questions you may have about your tax situation. They should be able to tweak other areas of your finances. 

They can walk you through the taxation of your investments, the tax implications of buying or selling a home, and other tax decisions that you should be making to reach your financial objectives. Many tax accountants can do financial forecasting, payroll, budgeting, and auditing for loans. 

A great accountant can be a valuable resource and trusted advisor all year round when running your business. An awesome business accountant will help you every step of the way as you grow your business, helping you create a business plan and filing all necessary business contracts.

If you rely solely on cheap or free tax advice online instead of relying on a qualified accountant, you could be making costly financial mistakes. Most accounting software can’t bring red flags to your attention as effectively as an accountant can. After all, that’s what they do!

Accountants are very diligent and spend most of their time ensuring accuracy, which makes them very detail-oriented. This means they are worth every penny you spend because they will make sure everything is in order with your taxes and your finances in general if you have them helping with your business.

The right accountant can tip you off to financial missteps and help you find new savings opportunities that you may not have known about otherwise. They can do so much more than taxes, though they do that well! They will be there to answer any tax questions you may have and to guide you in making the best tax choices.

Accountants can provide you with strategic advice and help educate you on the most recent tax changes so that you know what will be affecting you and your business in the future. They can help you make the best decisions for your business year-round.

Their goal is to ensure that they help you do what is best for your business and bottom line. And they do this by making sure you get the best support that you need to continue growing in your business for years to come. That’s why finding the right tax accountant for you is a crucial decision, one you should make with your eyes wide open.

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