Small business owners can identify tax advisors by asking for recommendations from other professionals such as accountants, seeking personal referrals, checking out professional directories and following leads from advertisements. Before seeking help from a tax advisor, business owners will want to decide what kind of help they need and how much they’re willing to pay. After picking some candidates, interviews and background checks can help whittle the list. The help of a knowledgeable and attentive tax advisor can significantly affect a business’s financial performance.
Tax Advisor Basics
A tax advisor can give a business owner guidance about how to reduce taxes. Tax advisors are often called in to prepare tax returns, plan for managing future taxes and navigate major events such as the sale of a business, all with an eye to minimizing tax liability.
The role of a tax advisor is often handled by an accountant, attorney or tax return preparer. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants and attorneys carry professional designations and are licensed and overseen by government regulators. Tax return preparers are registered with the Internal Revenue Service However, anyone can call themselves a tax advisor. There’s no specific certification requirement for giving tax advice.
Getting bad tax advice can land a business owner in trouble and possibly lead to greater tax liability as well as fees, fines and even imprisonment. Scammers may pose as tax advisors and expose business owners to losses due to fraud and theft. With these concerns in mind, here are some ways to find a small business tax advisor.
How to Find a Tax Advisor
Start searching for a tax advisor by considering the type of services you will need. For instance, you may need help with state taxes as well as federal taxes or have specific concerns about selling your business. Also, consider how much you are able to pay. Some advisors, such as attorneys, may be more expensive than others.
After you know what you are looking for, there are several different approaches to finding the right tax advisor. Here are some of the more common ones:
- Professional referral: One of the most reliable ways to connect with a tax advisor is through a referral from another professional. Business owners can ask their accountant, bookkeeper, attorney or another expert for names of people they would recommend.
- Personal referral: Other business owners can also be good sources of recommendations. Business owners may not be as capable of evaluating a tax advisor’s expertise as another professional would be, but they can share their own experience.
- Professional associations: Membership directories of local bar associations and CPA societies can provide you with leads for tax advisors who have professional credentials. The National Association of Enrolled Agents has an online database that lets you search for tax experts by location.
- Government directories: The IRS maintains an online searchable database of tax return preparers that lets you narrow your search to attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents and holders of other certifications.
- Many tax advisors advertise for clients in business publications: Ads may describe specialties and other information about their services and qualifications that can help you identify candidates.
Selecting an Advisor
Before agreeing to work with an advisor, it’s best to identify three or so potential candidates. By gathering information about the people on this list, you can get a better idea of the one who would be the best fit for you. Here are specific steps to consider:
- Credential check: You can check tax professionals’ credentials with the professional associations to which they belong. This includes the state bar association for attorneys and the IRS for preparers with a PTIN. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy sponsors CPAverify to provide information about licensed CPA. To check the status of an Enrolled Agent, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the person’s first and last name and, if available, complete address and enroll. Agent number.
- Interview: Before agreeing to work with a tax advisor, conduct an interview to see how the candidates present themselves and ask questions about their qualifications, experience and services. Don’t neglect to ask about fees.
The Bottom Line
Methods for finding a tax advisor include using professional referrals, personal recommendations, professional associations, government directories and advertisements. These methods allow business owners to select tax advisors with specific credentials, such as attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents.
Tips for Tax Planning
- A financial advisor can be an excellent source of tax advice and, if needed, a referral to a more specialized tax advisor. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Tax advisors and return preparers have been known to commit malfeasance including thefts of refunds, failing to file a return and failing to pay taxes. If you have a serious concern about the way a tax advisor prepared your return, you can take it to the IRS. Form 14157 is the form for a complaint about a tax preparer.
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