Tax Preparers: Leverage These 5 IRS Tips to Attract More Leads

The IRS advises taxpayers to be cautious when choosing a tax preparer. They recently issued guidelines taxpayers should consider when making their choice.  

When potential clients are shopping for the right tax professional, you can stand out by emphasizing the IRS’s advice and meeting their standards. Here’s what taxpayers need to know and how you can use those criteria to shine in a competitive market.: 

IRS tip: Check the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers & understand preparer credentials 

The IRS strongly encourages taxpayers to understand the different types of credentials tax preparers can have. Anyone with a PTIN can prepare taxes, so tax preparers’ levels of education and expertise can vary widely. The IRS makes it clear that taxpayers should prioritize choosing a preparer who has at least some level of tax education.  

The IRS also advises taxpayers to reference the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This directory only includes tax preparers who are CPAs, attorneys, Enrolled Agents, certain types of actuaries and retirement planners, and Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) participants. Finding a preparer through the directory helps taxpayers find true professionals and avoid uninformed or incompetent preparers. 

What you can do: Pursue credentials or participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program 

The only way to be listed on the IRS directory of tax preparers is to gain one of the credentials listed above or participate in the AFSP. The AFSP is the fastest and easiest way to make the list.  

Even if you’re pursuing Enrolled Agent status, the process can take months or years. In the meantime, participation in the ASFP can help your business and allow you to be listed in the directory sooner, giving you credibility with potential clients.  

Be sure to highlight your credentials in your marketing efforts, explaining why it matters and how it sets you apart from non-credentialed preparers. 

IRS tip: Check with the Better Business Bureau and other governing boards 

Next, the IRS advises taxpayers to look into a preparer’s status with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and other governing boards like the State Board of Accountancy for CPAs, the State Bar Association for attorneys, and the IRS for Enrolled Agents. Disciplinary actions against credentialed tax preparers are usually public information on these organizations’ websites. 

What you can do: Pursue BBB Accreditation and maintain good standing 

If your business isn’t already registered with the BBB, you can easily claim your free business profile. Next, look into becoming a BBB-accredited business. This designation gives you a great deal of credibility with potential clients. 

Of course, the best way to maintain your good standing with the BBB and other relevant boards is to follow ethical business practices and provide excellent customer service. If you do receive a complaint, make sure to address and resolve it quickly.  

IRS tip: Ask about fees 

Another way taxpayers can gauge the credibility of a tax preparer is by asking about their fees and payment methods. The IRS warns against using “tax preparers who base fees on a percentage of their clients’ refunds or who offer to deposit all or part of the refund into their own financial accounts.” These red flags indicate that a preparer is attempting to conceal exorbitant fees or steal a portion of their client’s refund. 

Marketing materials that claim a tax preparer can guarantee larger refunds than competitors is another red flag, often signaling that the preparer will file fraudulent returns to increase refund amounts. 

What you can do: Charge fairly, collect payments legitimately, and never promise larger refunds than competitors 

As a tax preparer, you can gain credibility with your clients by being transparent about your fees and only using legitimate payment methods. If your clients prefer to pay your fee using their refund, never offer to have the refund deposited into your personal account.  

Instead, you can offer your clients more legitimate options like bank products through refund settlement banks. These banks will automatically distribute your fee to your bank account and the remainder of the refund to your client’s account. 

You should also be careful to never promise larger refunds than other tax preparers. It’s fine to mention that you help clients get their maximum refund, but it’s impossible to legitimately guarantee a larger refund than your competitors. 

IRS tip: Check into e-filing and PTINs 

The IRS advises taxpayers to verify that tax preparers plan to e-file their returns, sign all prepared returns, and include their PTIN. These are all small signals that a preparer isn’t trying to operate under the table and will take responsibility for the returns they filed. 

What you can do: Register for your PTIN and e-file easily using TaxSlayer Pro 

These guidelines are easy to follow, especially if you use TaxSlayer Pro to prepare and file your returns. Remember to register for or renew your PTIN before the start of each tax season. 

IRS tip: Make sure the preparer is available 

Some tax preparers only work during tax season – because of this, the IRS advises taxpayers to ask about their preparer’s availability. If issues arise with a return after filing season is over, taxpayers may need their preparer to answer questions. Late filers, anyone who makes quarterly estimated tax payments, or people who need year-round tax planning support would benefit from choosing a preparer who is available outside of tax season. 

What you can do: Offer year-round services  

You can stand out from your competitors by offering year-round tax preparation and other related services. Be sure to highlight the benefits of choosing a preparer that is still available after-tax season is over. You may want to consider offering additional year-round services like bookkeeping, financial planning, and business tax preparation. 

In conclusion 

By aligning your business practices and marketing efforts with the IRS’s advice for taxpayers, you can stand out amongst competitors and gain credibility with your potential client base. One of the best things you can do for your business is to pursue education or credentials that allow you to be listed on the IRS Directory of Tax Preparers. This guide to tax preparer credentials can help you understand your options and start pursuing education credits. 

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