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Tom LR Griffiths explains how to find a good tax consultant

Tom LR Griffiths explains how to find a good tax consultant

It’s no secret that filing taxes for individuals or businesses can be complicated. And as Tom LR Griffiths knows, the process only becomes more confusing as a US expatriate in the UK.

Many people choose to consult a tax advisor who can offer specialist assistance. Tax experts like Ingleton Partners ensure their clients’ tax returns are completed as needed to help avoid audits and excess payments.

Tom LR Griffiths explains how you can find the best tax consultant near you

Safety should always come first. An advisor has access to a lot of your personal information so you will need to vet them to ensure you can trust them.

Professional qualifications

Taxation technicians having a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) is the bare minimum.

Realistically your tax advisor should have certifications, for instance as a Certified Public Accountant, enrolled agent, or a licensed attorney. They may also have completed the IRS’s Annual Filing Season program. These various programs help ensure your tax consultant is not only educated but also up to date on various expatriate tax matters for US citizens living in the UK.

For instance, do they know how recent foreign tax credit changes will affect US expatriate tax matters? Experts like Thomas LR Griffiths, an enrolled agent and member of the Association of Taxation Technicians, take the time needed to understand these differences.

If you are having trouble finding a consultant with the certifications you need, try searching the IRS directory.

Professional organizations

Ideally, you will want a tax advisor who is a member of a professional organization. These organizations help ensure that advisors act according to a strict code of ethics, conduct themselves professionally, and have various program certificates.

Some such organizations include the American Academy of CPAs, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the National Association of Enrolled Agents.

PTIN

Tax consultants (or anyone sorting taxes for compensation) must provide a PTIN, Preparer Tax Identification Number, to the Internal Revenue Service.

Fees and billing

Fees are important, and not just for the obvious reasons. You don’t want a preparer who is trying to fleece you of your hard-earned money, but the way advisors structure their charges will also give you a good idea of if you can trust them.

The most common ways for a consultant to charge are with a set fee per form required for your tax return or a set minimum fee plus extra based on how complicated your tax return is. Those that entice customers in with promises of higher tax returns should be treated with some suspicion as this is usually a bad sign.

Electronic filing of US taxes

Internal Revenue Service requires all paid preparers doing more than 10 tax returns to file electronically using the e-file system. You should be aware that any advisor who says they don’t offer electronic filing is not doing very much tax preparation.

Tax filing and representation in front of Internal Revenue Services

It is worth noting that only certain preparers can represent your case to the IRS (if needed).

A preparer with just a PTIN cannot, but enrolled agents, attorneys, and CPAs can. Someone who has attended the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program will only be able to offer representation for their clients in a limited number of circumstances.

Availability

Look for tax preparers who offer continued assistance beyond just the expatriate taxes and returns. You may have questions regarding the return in which case having an advisor who responds promptly to emails and offers phone calls, or in-person appointments is vital.

Communication

Good communication is necessary and helpful. Tax returns can be complicated and are often stressful, but it is far less worrisome if you have taxation technicians who will let you know what is happening and answer any questions you may have.

Individual situations

Given the known complexities of US expatriate taxes, you should choose a preparer that takes the time to understand your situation. It is a good sign if your tax advisor asks questions and attempts to thoroughly understand your position.

An eye for detail

Taxes require an eye for detail, so look for taxation technicians who is highly organized and who doesn’t shy away from the specifics.

Personality

It doesn’t hurt to have an advisor that you feel comfortable with. If you are going to be communicating with someone then you want it to be someone you trust and can communicate with easily.

Small businesses

If you are a small business owner, then look for a preparer with experience filing for other small businesses. There are several differences between small and large business tax requirements and someone with experience handling these is best positioned to help with your taxes.

Use reviews and recommendations as a guide

Ask those around you if they have someone they would recommend for the job. Barring that, check online and, where possible, read reviews on unbiased sites such as Google or even Facebook.

Why hire a tax accountant?

Expatriate tax matters are tricky so it’s no surprise that many people need an expert who can offer specialist assistance to guide them through.

Preparers are heavily involved in tax laws, changes, and how these affect returns. They can help their customers avoid mistakes and ensure you don’t miss out on any credits or deductions. For instance, they will know all about the Wyden proposal and its influence on foreign tax credits for expats.

Plus, tax mistakes, however unintentional, can have severe repercussions. These include fines, IRS audits, and other penalties. A tax professional can prevent such errors.

Interviewing your consultant

Consider preparing some questions to help you figure out if an advisor is right for you. These queries may include asking about their fees and billing, experience, or preferred communication method.

Choosing an accountant that suits you

Beyond selecting a preparer with the necessary qualifications and other desirable traits, it is also helpful to choose an advisor based on your specific situation and tax requirements.

Here are some things you should look for when deciding.

●      Budget

There’s no getting around the fact that your budget will, and should, affect your choice. Try finding someone that you can afford, without resorting to anything that seems unreasonably cheap and likely to cut corners.

●      Experience

As an expat, you want someone who understands UK taxes and US expatriate tax matters. If you are filing business tax returns, you may also want someone with experience or knowledge of your industry.

●      Availability

Make sure you select someone who has the availability to help and check to see if your expectations for communication will be met before hiring.

Tom LR Griffiths believes finding a good consultant for expatriate tax matters

If you are a US expatriate living in the UK, look for someone who understands where and how the tax requirements of these countries intersect.

Thomas LR Griffiths of the Ingleton Partners is an enrolled agent who can offer specialist assistance on expatriate taxes and who can represent individuals in front of the Internal Revenue Service.