Are All Tax Preparers Alike?

By Larry Betts

Most tax preparers use tax software and are supposed to have the same knowledge of the tax laws as other comparable tax preparers. Why are there so many different bottom lines on the tax returns used in the Money Magazine survey?

I feel there are at least three reasons. First is knowledge of their software. Just because someone has a tool does not mean they know how to use it.

Next is training. Without proper training, both on our software and with proper continuing education, there is going to be a vast difference in tax return bottom lines.

I also feel that interpretation of ambiguous tax laws can lead to many different answers. There is a lot of ambiguity in our tax laws. Just look at the volume of cases decided in tax court. How aggressive is your preparer? I look at every advantage for the taxpayer. If, and only if, I find a reason I cannot apply a certain area of the IRS code to your return will I remove that deduction or interpretation.

I will always discuss any interpretation with a client and provide the pros and cons of why I feel a decision should be made one way or another. The final decision, however, rests with the taxpayer, but hopefully it is a well informed taxpayer.

The best thing a taxpayer can do is find a preparer with adequate knowledge, an up to date software program, and the ability to combine the two.