CPA Michelle Staebell of the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Society of CPAs offered some advice for those looking for help from a trusted tax preparer this tax season Monday on News 8 at Sunrise.

“When choosing someone to prepare your taxes, you definitely want to make sure they’re trustworthy and experienced,” said Staebell. “It’s a good idea to keep in mind, even if you hire somebody, the responsibility of that return still falls on the taxpayer. Even if somebody else puts the numbers in and files the return with software, the I-R-S is going to come back to the taxpayer, not the preparer.”

Staebell said there are certain credentials to let you know if someone is experience tax preparer.  “C-P-A, or Certified Public Accountant and E-A, Enrolled Agent, those credentials are for people who had to pass a rigorous test, or were former I-R-S employees,” she said. “They also have annual education requirements to keep them up to date. You can hopefully assume that they’re responsible, trustworthy and experienced.”

The I-R-S recently launched a R-P-O directory on its website according to Staebell. It’s the Return-Preparer Office.  “It’s only been out for a few years,” she said. “You can go on there and search for people under their name and location. It’s a really nice tool.”  
Staebell also said you can choose to work with someone who does not have these credentials.  “There’s no requirement to have credentials to prepare tax returns,” she noted. “That’s more of a judgment call. You want to make sure that you ask some questions, and there are some red flags to look out for. If the tax preparer offers to put your refund into their bank account, I wouldn’t use them, or if they guarantee that they’re going to give you a higher refund if you use them, I wouldn’t use them.”
You’ll also want to look for a tax preparer who provides services year round said Staebell.  That’s especially important if the I-R-S flags your return for a problem.  “You want to make sure you find a tax preparer that’s going to be available all year round,” she said. “Some of them are seasonal and close up shop right after tax season. Those are people I would stay away from as well.”
Bottom line, said Staebell, do your homework when finding someone to help with your tax return.  For more information, visit the New York State Society of CPAs website, click here.