Who Can File My Taxes?
During tax season, a taxpayer may wonder: “Who can file my taxes?” The answer is that taxpayers have many different options when looking for tax help. The choices can range from free help from the government to tax experts who will charge top dollar, but also guarantee to be available if the IRS later comes back with any questions or an audit. Here are some of the alternatives for taxpayers looking for help with their tax returns:
- Ask the IRS. There are a couple of different ways to get help from the IRS to file a tax return. Under the Free File program, a taxpayer who has an adjusted gross income of $58,000 – which takes into account about 70 percent of all taxpayers – can go online for free help. The Free File program allows taxpayers who have their necessary tax and income documents to choose a tax software company and rely on the software program for help in preparing their tax return. Additionally, the IRS website at www.irs.gov has areas where taxpayers can ask questions to tax experts on the phone or learn about the latest changes in the tax laws or which 1040 form to choose by visiting online help sites.
- Tax preparer. A tax preparer is someone who may have knowledge and experience in helping taxpayers with their taxes, but is not a CPA or someone who can represent a taxpayer in the event of an audit request. Employees of most franchise tax companies are tax preparers who undergo company training before handling tax returns.
- Enrolled agent. A taxpayer can also choose an enrolled agent to prepare and file their tax return. Enrolled agents are former employees of the IRS who are allowed by the government to attend audits with clients.
- Tax accountant. A tax accountant is probably the priciest choice for someone wondering: “Who can file my taxes?” A tax accountant is someone who has passed a rigorous state test to be accepted as a certified public accountant, and then has selected the tax field. Tax accountants must complete continuing education requirements each year and can defend clients who are audited by the IRS.
- Free tax help. There are groups throughout the country that offer free tax return preparation. In some cases, that help is limited to the elderly, who will find that the AARP is at least one of the answers to the question of “Who can help me file my taxes.” In other cases, the assistance is designed for the poor and may be available through the local governments. Check with a representative at City Hall to find out what free tax help is available in town.
Documents to provide to your tax preparer…
Bring any income forms for the year, including W-2 forms from employers, 1099-MISC forms for self-employment income, 1099-INT interest forms and 1099-DIV dividend forms. Anything with a 1099 is a form of income that has already been sent to the IRS and must be included with your return. If you are itemizing, bring the 1098 mortgage interest forms as well as the proof of health or other expenses. Finally, bring in your Social Security card. In light of increased online tax fraud, many preparers are requiring this information to verify your identity.