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5 Traits to Look For in a Tax Professional

Many Americans go hunting for a tax professional during the first couple months of the year, for obvious reasons. Most people really don’t think thinks taxes until the new year rolls around and they’re inundated with tax forms and articles reminding them that, hey, April 15 is right around the bend.

If that sound like you, you’re in luck. We can help your search by pointing you to some of the most important traits to look for in a tax professional.

But first, a quick tip: If you ever have to search again, consider doing it in the “offseason.” The closer you get to Tax Day, the less availability most high-quality tax preparers are going to have, as people have already tried to lock down their services. But believe us: There’s not nearly as much of a rush on tax work in, say, August as there is in April.

Still, many people find themselves in need of professional tax help now. And when it comes to choosing a tax pro, it pays to be choosy. Doing so can result in a comfortable professional relationship with an expert who actually understands your personal or business situation — and thus can better help you minimize your tax obligations.

Here are five traits that are important in selecting a tax professional:

5 Traits to Look For in a Tax Professional


Let’s be pragmatic here and touch on the most practical question first: What can you afford?

Every client has a maximum number they can spend on tax services. So it’s best to find out up front what a tax professional charges.

A tax pro should be able to provide at least a rough estimate, perhaps based on how many forms are involved or how many hours they believe your situation will require. One red flag is charging fees based on percentage of refund. Unscrupulous preparers might falsify returns to secure the highest possible refund.

“When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information,” the IRS adds.

A Clean History

Naturally, you don’t want a tax preparer that cuts corners and puts you at legal risk. One way to ensure that your preparer works above board is to check with certain organizations about your preparer’s history.

The IRS suggests checking with IRS.gov’s verify enrolled agent status page or the directory for Enrolled Agents, checking with the State Board of Accountancy for CPAs, and checking with the Better Business Bureau about preparers. Find out if your tax professional is currently licensed and if they have any history of disciplinary actions.


One thing to monitor when you’re talking to a tax professional for the first time: their attention to detail.

If they’re constantly shuffling through various files and paper stacks to find things, or if it’s clear during your conversation with them that they’re not properly remembering details you just told them, that’s a red flag. After all: Imagine how a lack of organization and attention of detail could affect your tax returns.

Shows Interest

This is a “squishy” trait that relies on your ability to read the room. But in general, don’t work with a tax professional who doesn’t really want your business.

Do they ask numerous and specific questions about your financial situation? Are they tackling simple things like getting back to you promptly and on time? Do they seem energized about having you as a client? If so, these are good signs that the tax pro actually cares about the business you’re bringing in. If not, you’re likely “just another client” — one they might not have time for once they land their whale.

Experience in What You Need

Individual taxpayers have different needs compared to small businesses, who themselves have different needs than large corporations. Naturally, then, an accountant who specializes in large corporations is going to pay much closer attention to that part of the tax code. Keep that in mind when you’re selecting a tax professional. Ideally, you want someone who specializes in what exactly it is that you need.

McManamon & Co. specializes in small and midsize businesses and nonprofits. We do a great many things for these groups – not just tax preparation, but accounting, business valuations, outsourced CFO services and more. That sharp focus allows us to provide the best possible service, and produce the best possible outcomes, for our treasured clients.

If you’re the owner of a small or midsize business or nonprofit that needs help with your taxes, reach out today. You can call us at 440.892.8900, or contact us online.

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