How to Find the Best C.P.A. or Tax Accountant Near You

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Find the Best C.P.A. or Tax Accountant Near You

Here are some tips and steps on how to find the best C.P.A. in your area:

Step 1: Put together a list of potential C.P.A.s and tax accountants from your area

While many people will Google and read Google reviews, sometimes the best C.P.A.s come from referrals from family and friends.

Search the I.R.S. directory.

Every paid tax preparer must have is a preparer tax identification number, or P.T.I.N. Even though anyone can apply for a P.T.I.N., that does not mean they are a good tax accountant.

The I.R.S. maintains a directory of C.P.A.s, enrolled agents, and attorneys who have current credentials recognized by the I.R.S. Search the directory by ZIP code to find a C.P.A. or credentialed tax professional near you.

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Check with your state or national associations.

Many state boards of accountancy also maintain online directories of members. Not every C.P.A. prepares taxes so you will have to verify if the C.P.A. you are looking into prepares taxes or not.

Enrolled Agents are federally licensed tax practitioners who are authorized to advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals and businesses.

Step 2: Narrow down your options

Try to narrow down your options to a select few from your initial research. Then, once you have done so, then follow the next steps.

Verify their credentials.

If you got the tax preparer’s name from the I.R.S. or your state board of accountancy, they should be a legitimate tax professional. However, if you got the name through a referral, then you should definitely verify their credentials.

If they are a licensed C.P.A, then you should be able to search their license number on their state Department of Professional Regulations website.

Read online reviews.

Look at your potential C.P.A. or tax preparer’s website and social media accounts to see what sorts of things they post online. Search Google, Yelp, and other platforms and read reviews posted by clients.

You want to look for red flags such as several complaints, unprofessional social media posts, or an arrest record, move on to your next candidate.

Make an appointment.

Once you have narrowed down your list even further, set up an appointment to meet or call the tax professional. Many C.P.A.s and tax professionals will meet with a potential client for free to discuss their unique tax situation and the options they have.

Step 3: Interview a potential C.P.A. or Tax Professional

When you meet with a potential accountant, bring a copy of your most recent tax return. This gives the tax professional the best idea of your tax situation and can advise you on areas where there may have been a misstep or areas of opportunities in the past.

Make sure to let your tax professional know of any significant life changes you’ve experienced in the past year, for example if you got married (or divorced), had children, invested in rental property, started a business, or had any capital gains or losses in the year.

Here are some key questions to ask during your meeting:
  • How long have you been preparing taxes?
  • Do you have any specialties?
  • How do you bill for your services?
  • Are you available for questions outside of tax season?
  • Who will prepare my return?
  • Do you have any tax planning process or strategies?
  • How do you stay updated on tax law changes?

Bonus step: Look outside where you live

If you don’t find a tax preparer or C.P.A. near you whom you feel comfortable working with, you can look outside of the state you live in. You are not limited to use a C.P.A. whose operations are within your state. You may find the perfect C.P.A. for you outside of the state you live in.