I am a born tax nerd. My mom is a professional tax advisor, and she was a huge influence on me. I found out that working with numbers really clicked for me when I took an accounting course as a high school elective. I enjoyed when everything tied out and balanced at the end. Given my natural love of numbers, it’s not surprising that I chose a career as a CPA specializing in tax. But along with numbers, what I love even more is the people side of accounting – the story behind the numbers – and how people use those numbers in their life. I find it incredibly gratifying to connect with a client and advise them, which led me to think about when people should seek out a professional tax advisor and how to choose one.
When to Hire a Professional Tax Advisor Instead of Doing It Yourself
Some people feel that doing their taxes is a daunting task and they need help. Other people feel like it costs too much to hire a professional. So how do you know if you need a professional? Basically, each person has their own comfort level when it comes to approaching their taxes. I think it’s a balancing act, and the easiest answer I can give is if you think you need professional tax service, you probably do.
Accounting and bookkeeping are the basic levels, along with somebody to do your tax return. However, there is tax service beyond that, where a professional tax advisor will take a whole world view and ask, “What have you done this year?” A software program can try and ask you those same questions, but when you deal directly with person – with a professional – they can hear your story and hear your goals. When you have a business, or you have investments that are taxable, a professional can take all of this into consideration today to put you in the best place for your future.
Why Hire a Professional Tax Advisor
Having a professional tax advisor on your side will give you the benefit of someone evaluating your situation holistically, and they can help you determine what deductions you can advantage of. A lot of times, when people don’t seek out a professional tax advisor, they’re missing out on opportunities that can help them or their business. Taxes are not just a means to collect revenue, they are a means to influence behavior. For example, if we focus on the individual tax return, you can itemize your deductions, such as real estate taxes and mortgage interest. These types of deductions encourage people to buy a house. And home ownership within our nation grows value and improves lives overall.
Taxes are a part of life; it’s a given. We need to move forward with that in our thought process. How can we accept the tax liability in our lives, but also take advantage of all those areas of influence that government and congress and politics are trying to help us out with? A professional tax advisor will teach clients how to take advantage of those things.
How Do I Choose a Professional Tax Advisor
The first step I recommend is simple. Schedule a time to meet with them. Anyone that is credible will be happy to have a complimentary call with you or a 15-minute meeting. During that complimentary call, the tax advisor might ask to see your previous year’s return, ask about your investments, ask to be connected to your financial advisor, and other questions to get a sense of your situation. A short conversation will give the advisor a feel of what your needs are as a client. And as the client, you will learn if this advisor is talking more than listening or listening more than talking. Are they asking questions to learn more about you? Do you feel they are communicating with you in a way that you’re comfortable with? Are they speaking to you only using the “tax code lingo”, or are they translating complex concepts into laymen’s terms and making sure you understand it? If any of your answers to these questions don’t sit well with you, it’s not going to be a good match. Keep talking to different professional advisors until you find the one that is the right match for you – you will find someone.
Personally, I love working with clients who question things. They want to know more, they want to understand their situation, and they’re not afraid to come at me with all their hard questions. When they do this, it allows me the opportunity to explain complex topics in digestible terms and help them to feel a little more comfortable with their tax plan, all the while knowing that while they might not understand all of it, I’ve spent years of my life in my career learning about this and I can share my knowledge and help them. For those clients that I don’t talk to all the time, and we primarily work together over email, I am looking at each client’s tax return to determine how to maximize their benefits. When you find that advisor you connect with and you’re comfortable with, that’s where you’re going to get the most value.
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