Looking for the Right Tax Professional for You? Seven Factors to Consider

The right professional will help you more than just once a year.

A tax adviser shakes hands across her desk with a client couple.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As April 15 draws closer and closer, the need to file your taxes on time grows even more urgent. While there are self-filing services and software available, many people still look for the personalized guidance and care a tax professional can provide. But are all tax professionals the same? With so many to choose from, narrowing down the perfect planner or adviser for you can be a complex challenge.

To help make the search a little easier, the financial experts of Kiplinger Advisor Collective offer their guidance. Below, they outline some of the most important factors you should consider when looking for a tax pro and discuss why making the effort to find the best help now can save you both time and money well into the future.

Your financial (and non-financial) goals
“Most CPAs and tax advisers are more focused on reporting and do not provide specific advice on how to structure transactions or organizations to minimize tax. If you have substantial recurring taxable income or are selling an appreciated asset, there are many tools to minimize tax. A tax planning specialist can identify the best solution. Focus first on your financial and non-financial goals.” — John Goralka, The Goralka Law Firm

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Whether they take a proactive approach
“Ask if the professional focuses on tax as a historical accounting of tax or takes a proactive tax planning approach. The biggest opportunities with tax happen when you are proactive and are working with a tax planning professional before and during the year. Frustration typically occurs when tax is an afterthought and a historical accounting of what happened.” — Lyndsey Monahan, Women Inspire Wealth

Their expertise or specialization
“One crucial factor to consider is the tax professional's expertise and specialization in relation to your specific financial situation. This is vital because tax laws are complex and vary based on individual circumstances, such as business ownership, investments and more. A specialist in these areas can provide tailored advice, ensuring tax filings are accurate, efficient and optimized for potential benefits.” — Amrita Choudhary, Wasabi Technologies

Kiplinger Advisor Collective is the premier criteria-based professional organization for personal finance advisors, managers, and executives. Learn more >

The cost of quality service
“Be clear about what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for annual tax preparation, that’s one thing. If you’re looking for ongoing proactive planning and support, that’s another. While interviewing tax professionals, also be aware that, according to CPA Trendlines, fewer and fewer new CPAs are filling the ranks of those retiring. According to the study, 42% of firms are turning away work, and 62% are culling existing clients. Long story short: The cost of quality service is going up. If you enjoy working with your current tax professional, continue being courteous and prompt!” — Dennis McNamara, wHealth Advisors

The specific type of tax professional and their credentials
“Be careful about who you let do your taxes, as you are entrusting that person with a lot of sensitive information, and they should act in your best interest. IRS Circular 230 practitioners, enrolled agents (EAs), CPAs and attorneys are all vetted by the IRS and have passed a competency test; however, EAs are the only ones who always specialize in tax matters. It pays to choose EAs — they speak tax.” — Dennis Futch, The Tax Shop

Their policies on data and information safety
“It is important to be transparent about the type of service you want. For example, do you want tax preparation services or ongoing proactive tax planning? It is also important to ask questions regarding who will be handling your personal and sensitive information as well as the policies and procedures to keep client data safe and secure.” — Marguerita Cheng, Blue Ocean Global Wealth

Whether they're taking a holistic view
“Be proactive in your approach. Hiring a tax planning adviser means they can help you make strategic decisions related to your investments, business transactions, retirement contributions and other financial activities. The goal of these decisions is a holistic approach designed to help you mitigate your tax liability throughout the year. When taxes come due, you should see a decrease in the taxes you owe.” — Greg Welborn, First Financial Consulting

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The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Kiplinger Advisor Collective

Kiplinger Advisor Collective is the premier criteria-based professional organization for personal finance advisors, managers, and executives.