Can I Go To H&R Location To Get Questions Answered What Are the Different Kinds of Tax Preparers, and What Do They Specialize In?

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What Are the Different Kinds of Tax Preparers, and What Do They Specialize In?

Every year in April, everyone starts scrambling to complete and file their taxes. Although many people prepare their own taxes, a business owner or a person with large assets and investments should use the services of a professional. There are many types of tax preparation services and tax planning professionals. Some of these are Enrolled Agents, CPA’s, and lawyers. What is the difference between a tax preparation service and an Enrolled Agent?

Tax Preparation Services

Most people are familiar with tax preparation services, such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt. These services will prepare and file your annual return for a fee, and often offer refund advance loans. Many smaller services exist throughout the country. They are usually staffed with certified professionals such as accountants, although some may hire non-professionals or accounting students. Be careful using a non-certified tax preparer, as they may not know the tax code well and may not be able to take deductions.

CPAs

Individuals can become certified as a tax preparer in several ways, but the CPA is the most common. A Certified Public Accountant must attend high school and receive a degree in accounting. They are licensed in their state, and take annual continuing education classes for re-certification. Accountants don’t just prepare taxes; They also provide financial advice, business and tax planning. Some CPAs work for tax preparation services full or part-time. It is recommended that large businesses keep a CPA on retainer. Any CPA must display their latest credentials or offer them openly.

Tax Attorneys

Lawyers may choose to specialize in one area of ​​law, just like doctors. Some choose tax law, which can be a lucrative specialty. Tax lawyers are there to help their clients with tax disputes, establish tax shelters, prepare paperwork for corporate tax measures, and more. They are not specialists in filing actual returns. A tax attorney is good to have on retainer for a larger corporation, because they know the tax code and can advise on how to invest and what deductions are best for the business. Check with the local Bar Association to find out if the attorney you are considering is qualified.

Enrolled Agents

An Enrolled Agent (EA) differs from a CPA in the scope and training of their work. EAs are certified by the IRS to represent taxpayers. They have no set training course, but must pass a certification exam and get continuing education. An EA is a tax specialist who advises taxpayers on audits, investigations, and can prepare taxes. They have client privacy obligations, unlike other tax preparers. An authorized agent is also the sole representative of the taxpayer appointed by the federal government. There are only about 49,000 EAs in the US, and they have to show their credentials.

Different Areas of Expertise

CPAs are financial jacks-of-all-trades. Their certification exam has 1000 questions, only about a quarter of which deal directly with taxes. Most accountants focus more on actual accounting practices and only actively work on taxes during tax season. Their advice and guidance is very important in running the business efficiently. An Enrolled Agent, however, only specializes in taxes. Their exam covers every part of the tax code and excludes accounting and business principles. They pass a very strict exam to become an EA in the first place, including annual classes and Continuing Education tests.

Practical Application

A company should have a CPA on retainer throughout the year, to provide advice on business matters as well as taxation. Their services are invaluable for running a business efficiently and profitably. While an Enrolled Agent may charge slightly less than a CPA, their services are more limited. If you or your business has specific tax problems, it may be best to call an enrolled agent rather than a CPA. They are bound by EA-Client privacy privileges, and are highly experienced in tax matters, especially audits. A tax attorney should be retained by corporations or high net worth individuals to take proactive steps to shelter their income.

Tax preparation services can and do work for all types of tax professionals. When it’s time to choose your tax planning professional, first determine the extent of your needs. If you are an individual with a straightforward return, a tax service or CPA will work well. If you fear an audit or need special IRS representation, hire an enrolled agent. For legal tax matters, hire a tax attorney. Each of these financial advisors can do their work within their specialization, but are not necessarily interchangeable.

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