Doing your own taxes is a great way to save money, but let’s face it — some of us have pretty complicated taxes and prefer to avoid the stress of making sure everything’s accurate. Using the services of a professional who knows all the tax rules can be a load off your mind, but if you’re not careful, it can also be an unnecessary load off your wallet. This might sound surprising, but many tax professionals often make mistakes that can cost you dearly.

There are at least two ways your professional tax preparation can go wrong: (1) an inexperienced tax agent who fails to get you the credits you’re qualified for and inadvertently cheats you out of your maximum refund, or (2) a fee-based-on-return tax agent who encourages you to take credits you don’t qualify for, placing you at risk for an audit.

On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of people have their taxes prepared by a professional every year with no incident. What makes the difference? Consider these suggestions for choosing a tax professional you can trust to handle your return for years to come.

1. Ask for a referral from a trusted family member, friend, or colleague.
A lot of these questions will be answered immediately if you know someone who’s used their services before and recommends them.

2. Make sure they have a PTIN (IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number).
The IRS requires this number for agents to file tax returns they’ve prepared. Having the identification number doesn’t necessarily mean they’re certified, educated, or experienced. It does however eliminate some of the complete novice amateurs though.


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