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Tax Attorneys and CPAs - Why do You Need Them?

Updated on February 2, 2015


You can do your taxes yourself with tax software, or you can hire a tax professional to do it for you
You can do your taxes yourself with tax software, or you can hire a tax professional to do it for you | Source

Tax Attorneys and CPAs Can Help You In Varied Ways

When it comes to paying your taxes, we have no choice. When it comes to choosing who files them, we have lots of choices.  You can choose to do it yourself, choose a list of tax attorneys, accountants, or paid tax preparers. You can do it yourself, or you can pay your brother-in-law.  Whether you hire someone or do it yourself, it is best to understand the various options, benefits, and costs related to who fills out your tax return.  The first thing to know is that no matter who files your return, you are ultimately responsible for signing and paying your own taxes.

Tax attorneys are good choices if you owe back taxes or own a small business.  C.P.A.s (Certified Professional Accountants) can also do your incorporated business taxes. Accountants and tax preparers are good choices for your personal returns. Tax attorneys are also a good choice when you want someone to help you deal with the IRS. Tax laws are very complicated and  tax attorneys may have better insight to  guide you in dealing with tax issues and tax shelters or should you have to defend yor tax issues against the state or federal government.

Hiring a tax professional months before your taxes is due is prudent.  From the tax attorneys to all the other tax preparer professionals, this time of year gives you the opportunity to pick the person who will best suit your needs. Giving yourself enough time to gather your information will allow the tax professional to make sure things are in order for filing.  This will help you get a better start on filing your taxes on time. Tax attorneys, and other professionals, as well as you, can always file an extension.  The extension only applies to filing the forms.  Any taxes due must be paid by April 15th or whatever date your corporate taxes are due. Working with someone months before allows time to figure tax advantages and to use the taxation laws to your benenfit. Tax attorneys and accountants can use their knowledge about the I.R.S. tax regulations to help you think about how to offset taxes due from past years or to use the tax refunds towards future years.  If you keep your receipts in a shoebox or can’t find certain documentation, tax attorneys and accountants will tell you what data you need to have. They can help you sort out your records and advise you on keeping your information better organized.

You Are Responsible for the Tax Form You Sign

A professional can speak on your behalf to the IRS
A professional can speak on your behalf to the IRS | Source

Protect Yourself from Fraud

Most tax professionals are honest preparers, but you need to choose tax attorneys or accountants with you having knowledge of their reputation and licenses. It is your responsibility to make sure your tax return has accurate information. Here are some other tips to protect yourself against fraud from tax preparers:

  • do not put your signature on a blank tax return

  • always look over your tax return prior to signing it

  • be sure to ask for explanations about information you need clarified

  • take caution when someone (even if they are tax attorneys) overstates being able to get you a bigger tax refund than other professionals.

  • do no deal with anyone who charges you based on a percentage of your refund

  • You want to use a tax attorney or an accountant who will put their signature on the return as a paid preparer. If they will not sign the return, this should alert you to something suspicious. All paid tax preparers must, according to the rules of the IRS, sign the tax return they have prepared. They should also put their identifying number on the return.

  • Deal with someone who is reputable. You want to make sure the tax preparation company will be in business in months and years from now so they are available to advise you or answer questions, should the I.R.S. inquire about something.

  • Check the tax professional’s academic credentials. As per the I.R.S. “only tax attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.”

  • Make sure who you are dealing with is up to date with the latest tax law changes and that they have taken part in continuing education courses.

  • Ask if the tax preparer is part of an organization that has a code of ethics they abide by, in order to be part of the association.

  • Try to use someone who comes recommended and with referrals

Tax attorneys and other professionals will want to see documentation that backs up the deductions you want to claim on your return. They will usually ask you questions to qualify the expenses as legitimate deductions. This is all done to protect you, as the Internal Revenue Service is looking for these same things, should they audit you. Tax attorneys, CPAs and other tax preparers want to help you avoid the fees, interest, and penalties that arise from additional taxes due, and to avoid costly mistakes. Even though the paid preparer must sign your tax return, you must sign it also, and you are the person responsible for paying the proper taxes due, and for the accuracy of the information.

Get a Reward for Reporting Fraudulent Preparers

If you feel you have been a victim of tax fraud you can report this abuse to the IRS of form 3949-A.  The form is available as a download at You can call 1-800-829-3676, or order the form by mail. When you fill out the form, detail the incident with specifics about the individual or company and what they did, in addition to any other information that may be helpful.  Your identity and all information will be kept confidential during the investigation. There is no need to give any of your personal information, if you would rather remain anonymous. If you do give the IRS your information, they may give you a reward for reporting the fraudulent activity. Form 211 is the form you would fill out to apply for the reward. It is up to the Whistleblower Office part of the IRS to determine if you are entitled to a reward. The amount you may receive is based on what the IRS collects and how valuable the information you provided them with has helped with the case.  Send the details of the suspected fraud to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888.  

There were over 600 fraud investigations against tax preparers from  2006 to 2008 done by the IRS. This led to guilty convictions of 356 preparers.

Beware of Tax Scams

There Are No Regulations for Paid Tax Preparers

In addition to tax attorneys and CPAs, there are other tax professionals to choose from. None are government regulated. There are no laws against anyone printing up stationary and business cards saying they are a tax preparer. The government admits they are not doing an adequate job of monitoring and regulating paid tax preparers. The inspector general of the IRS, stated there are no controls or ways to track the many tax preparers. In fact the government has no idea how many paid preparers there are in the U.S. The Treasury inspector, J Russell George, attorney general for tax administration said ” The IRS currently is not capable of ensuring that paid preparers adhere to professional standards and follow the law." The IRS had intentions of licensing and imposing regulations for training and monitoring tax preparers. The companies that provide retail tax services like H&R Block are expected to comply with the changes the IRS is expected to impose.

  • Approximately 60% pay to have their taxes prepared by someone else, although the numbers seem to be going down, as more people use tax software and file their taxes themselves.

  • 20 % use tax software.

Voluntary Tax Preparer's Certification

For the income tax season of 2014, tax preparers were required to have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). There is no required exams or requirements for continuing education.

For the tax season of 2015, the IRS initiated a voluntary certification program. The IRS is hoping Congress will enact a proposal during 2015 to get tax preparers registered with the IRS.

Get the Most Return for Your Money

Getting the biggest tax refund or reducing the taxes you have to pay is your aim.
Getting the biggest tax refund or reducing the taxes you have to pay is your aim. | Source

Anyone Can Call Themselves a Tax Preparer

Below are the list of the most common tax preparers.

  • Tax preparers who work for chains who prepare taxes for individuals.  Companies like Jackson Hewitt and H & R Block open up retail stores that people can walk into and have someone file their taxes. Their training and experience may vary. The hired preparers are paid low wages, just barely above minimum wage, plus a commission. This type of service is good for people with simple tax returns.  They can go with you if the IRS makes any inquiries about your tax return, but only enrolled agents, tax attorneys, and CPAs can legally represent you on your behalf.  With tax attorneys and CPAs, you do  not have to show up yourself.  These preparers may not maximize your ability to get the most deductions due to their limited knowledge.

  • Enrolled agents are licensed by the federal government.  They are usually individuals who have previously worked for the IRS, or passed an extensive exam given by the IRS.  An enrolled agent can represent you in dealing with the IRS. It is typical for enrolled agents to specialize in a specific tax area. It is a good idea for you to ask about their expertise. There is a National Association of Enrolled Agents that you can contact at 1-800 - 424-4339  for a recommendation. Go to and type in enrolled agents to get more information.

  • Certified Public Accountants also known as CPAs are college educated and must meet the requirements set by each state’s testing standards. To achieve a CPA they must pass a state comprehensive examination. They do not have to be tax experts to carry the CPA designation.  This title means they have met the qualifications and passed the exam to be a certified public accountant. CPAs are usually skilled at figuring out intricate financial situations.  Their specialty rests, regarding taxes in advising you about life changes and how it can impact on your financial future. Some CPAs are the best choice to do your taxes because of their varied knowledge.  Before you hire a CPA, you want ot know about their experience related to taxes.  A CPA can represent if the IRS does any inquiries into your tax return. Make sure the CPA you hire is up to date with the latest tax regulations. Go to, the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts  for more information.

  • Tax attorneys are expert in tax and legal matters pertaining to IRS rulings and in complex business tax dealings.  Tax attorneys can defend you against the IRS using their experience, knowledge and expertise in tax laws. Tax attorneys deal with tax shelters and can provide you with legal advice for sheltering your money.  Tax attorneys may not have as much experience in the tax return preparation.  You will want to ask them about their experience in filling out tax returns. Tax attorneys are part of the bar association.  Contact your local bar association to get more information about local tax attorneys.

The Choice of Tax Preparers is Yours

The choice is yours, whether to deal with tax attorneys, CPAs, or other tax preparers, or do it yourself.  Make sure you pick someone who is up to date with their knowledge, does taxes for a living, and comes highly recommended. Making the right choice will save you money and give you peace of mind. Start preparing now, so you can get your records in order and file  early.


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    • susannah42 profile image

      susannah42 7 years ago from Florida

      I have always used an accountant to do my taxes. Now I have moved to a new part of the country and don't know how to find someone to help me.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 7 years ago

      My husband and I have always used a profession, a C.P.A. to do our taxes...It's too hard for the average person to keep up with all the tax laws. We would miss out on something...Of course you need that person to be up to date on the Laws. We've used the same person for many years and built a trust. Thanks for sharing this useful info.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      I am so glad you created this overview- it's one thing to go through one's taxes alone, but something different entirely to have someone else handle the process, especially if they may not be the professionals we think they are. Thanks so much for noting important precautions, going over the different types of tax preparers, and giving all this helpful advice!

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      The hub carries many good information but it is always better to take decision on your own.