Many of us think about taxes once a year: as Tax Day approaches. But there’s a lot more to taxes than just filing your annual return—especially if you’ve had any major life changes, like marriage, divorce, a new child, or a new business. In cases like these, working with a tax professional can help you successfully navigate your changing circumstances.
It’s also wise to work with a tax professional if you have investments or are nearing retirement, since these situations can also complicate your taxes. Strategies for potentially reducing the tax hit to your portfolio include:
- Using a combination of taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts to increase the tax-efficiency of your investments, now and in retirement
- Making tax-deductible contributions to a (HSA), if you’re eligible
- Using tax-loss harvesting to reduce taxable income from taxable accounts
- Making tax-deductible donations, if charitable giving is one of your goals
Finding the right fit
Whether you need help preparing your annual taxes or want ongoing customized support, there’s sure to be a tax pro out there to fit your needs. Here are three tips to help you narrow your search:
1. Decide whether you need a tax preparer or a tax advisor. Not everyone will need ongoing tax advice. If you’re just looking for someone to prepare your taxes and help ensure you pay your share (but not a penny more), a tax preparer is probably what you need. The IRS has to help you choose the right tax preparer for your situation. On the other hand, if you’re looking for help with tax planning or business matters, consider a qualified tax advisor like a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), tax attorney, or an enrolled agent (a credential the IRS awards).
2. Find someone local. Since state and local tax laws vary, it’s best to look for a tax pro with experience in your area. You might also ask for recommendations from family and friends—or a financial consultant, who’s likely to know local tax advisors and other licensed tax professionals.
3. Ask about fees up front. No matter how highly recommended your potential tax professional is, ask about fees in advance and make sure their suggestions are a fit with your investment goals and risk tolerance. After all, only you can say what’s right for you.
What You Can Do Next
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