Choosing a Tax Professional

NSA Helps you Find a Tax Professional that Suits Your Needs


Questions to Ask a Tax Preparer

When interviewing a prospective tax preparer, ask these questions:

  • Do you have an IRS issued Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)?
  • Do you offer a free initial consultation? 
  • How do you keep up with the latest tax law?
  • Do you regularly take continuing education courses?
  • Are you a member of any professional tax or accounting organizations?
  • What are your professional credentials?
  • Do you abide by a code of ethics?
  • How do you determine your fee to prepare my return(s)? Is it a fixed fee or an hourly rate? Is it based on a % of my refund?
  • Who will prepare my return? Will it be you or someone else in your office? 
  • If you have employees who will work on my return, do they hold any credentials and do they take continuing education courses?
  • When do you require payment?
  • When can I expect to receive my completed tax returns back from you?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you bonded or insured?
  • Do you outsource any tax preparation services? 
  • What happens if I get audited?
  • Will you store my tax information? How will it be stored and for how long?
  • Can I contact you after tax season if needed regarding my return?
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Guide to Tax Preparer Credentials

Tax professionals must have an IRS issued Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) in order to legally prepare your tax return for compensation. Make certain your preparer has one and enters it on your return.

Enrolled agents, certified public accountants, and attorneys have unlimited representation rights before the IRS and may represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals.

Enrolled Agents (EA) – People with this credential are licensed by the IRS and specifically trained in federal tax planning, preparation and representation. Enrolled agents hold the most expansive license IRS grants and must pass a suitability check, as well as a three-part exam. They complete 72 hours of continuing education every 3 years.

Certified Public Accountants
 (CPA) – People with this credential are licensed by state boards of accountancy and have passed the CPA exam. They must meet education, experience, and good character requirements established by their boards of accountancy and comply with ethical requirements as well as complete continuing education to maintain an active license. CPAs can offer a range of services; some CPAs specialize in tax preparation and planning.

Attorneys – People with this credential are licensed by state courts or their designees, such as the state bar. Generally, requirements include completion of a degree in law, passage of an ethics and bar exam and on-going continuing education. Attorneys can offer a range of services; some attorneys specialize in tax preparation and planning.

Accredited Tax Advisors (ATA)
– These practitioners can handle sophisticated tax-planning issues. Their expertise covers tax returns for individuals, business entities, fiduciaries, trusts and estates, tax planning, and  tax consulting. ATAs follow a code of ethics and complete continuing education requirements.

Accredited Tax Preparers (ATP)– These practitioners have a thorough knowledge of  tax code and the preparation of individual tax returns. Their expertise covers comprehensive 1040 issues, including supporting schedules and self-employed returns. ATPs follow a code of ethics and complete continuing education requirements.

Accredited Business Accountants/Advisors (ABA)– ABAs have a thorough knowledge and proficiency in financial accounting, financial reporting, financial statement preparation, taxation, managerial accounting, business law, and ethics for small- to medium-sized businesses. ABAs follow a code of ethics and complete continuing education requirements.

Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRP)
 – Certain preparers became RTRPs under an IRS program that IRS is no longer able to enforce. RTRPs passed an IRS competency test on Form 1040 tax preparation.

Some states including CA, MD, and OR require state licensing for tax preparers.

CTEC Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP) – California law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee and is not an exempt preparer to register as a tax preparer with the California Tax Education Council (CTEC). Exempt preparers are California CPAs, enrolled agents (EAs), attorneys who are members of the State Bar of California.

Oregon Licensed Tax Preparers/Consultants – Any person preparing personal income tax returns for a fee or representing that they do so must be licensed by the Oregon State Board of Tax Practitioners. The CPAs, Public Accountants licensed by the Oregon Board of Accountancy and members of the Oregon State Bar who prepare returns for their law clients are exempt from this law. Licensed tax preparers and consultants must pass exams administered by the OR tax board.

Maryland Registration – A registration issued by the Maryland State Board is required to prepare Maryland individual tax returns.