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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

5 Steps to Hiring a Tax Pro

By Cameron Huddleston





Need professional help with your return? Here's how to find the right person for the job


JewishWorldReview.com | Has your tax return gotten just too complicated to handle on your own? Or maybe you just don't have the time to fill out all those forms. So now you've decided to bite the bullet and hire a tax pro.

If your tax situation is relatively simple, you probably can get by with a commercial preparer such as H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt. Or consider an enrolled agent, who is certified by the IRS after passing a two-day exam and a background check. Enrolled agents are authorized to represent clients before the IRS in the event of an audit.

However, if your tax return will be complex, you just started a business in the past year or you are looking for year-round tax advice, consider hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) or certified public accountant/personal financial specialist (CPA/PFS). Another option is an accredited tax adviser or preparer, who receives credentials from the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation and must complete 90 hours of continuing education every three years. Both are qualified to handle returns for individuals and businesses, but tax advisers often handle more complicated issues such as estate planning.

Those are the various professionals who can help. Picking the appropriate type of preparer is the easy part. Actually finding the right person to do the job can be tough.

If you're thinking about enlisting the help of a professional tax preparer for the first time or are searching for someone new because you're not satisfied with the service you're getting from you current preparer, follow these five steps.

Step 1: Get a referral. Ask your friends, family and colleagues whether they can recommend a tax preparer. If you are new to an area, check with your state's CPA society, which should be able to help you find a CPA in your area, the Accreditation Council's Web site for an accredited tax adviser or preparer, or the National Association of Enrolled Agents' Find an Enrolled Agent tool.

Then narrow your list of recommended tax preparers down to two or three candidates, who you will then call or visit for an interview.

Step 2: Interview candidates. If you're trying to hire a new tax preparer in the midst of tax season, you might have a hard time finding someone who can sit down with you in his or her office for a long interview, warns Michael Eisenberg, CPA/PFS and founder of Eisenberg Financial Advisors in Los Angeles. However, most tax preparers should have time for a phone interview of 20 to 30 minutes. If they aren't willing to give you a few minutes on the phone -- or want to charge you for the initial interview -- then look elsewhere. "You want somebody who is willing to listen to you, hear what you're saying and answer your questions in plain English," Eisenberg says.

And here are some key questions to ask:

How long have you been in practice? You want someone who has been preparing returns long enough (i.e. several years) to anticipate problems or IRS challenges.

What are your credentials? Anyone can hang out a sign claiming to be a tax preparer because there are no licensing requirements. So look for an enrolled agent, accredited tax adviser (ATA), accredited tax preparer (ATP), certified public accountant (CPA) or CPA/PFS. Only a CPA can have the PFS, personal financial specialist, designation. Check your state's licensing board and professional associations (see step 1) to assure that he or she is licensed, is a member in good standing and has had no disciplinary action taken against him or her.

Do you have any specialties? This is important to ask if you have a specific need. For example, if you have a small business, you need someone who knows business accounting. Or if you have rental property, look for someone who has experience handling this sort of tax situation.

How much will you charge? Eisenberg says you probably won't get an exact number, but a tax preparer should be able to provide you with an estimate. Find out if he or she charges an hourly rate or flat fee and whether that fee will cover everything or will there be add-ons for planning meetings and calls throughout the year.

Do you have room for a new client? Or, more importantly, will you file my return in a timely manner? And will you have time to meet with me throughout the year?

Will you handle my return, or will you hand it off to a less-experienced associate? If the preparer is part of a firm and will not be preparing your return personally, ask if he or she will review it after the associate completes it.

Will you represent me before the IRS? "Run out the door if the answer is no," Eisenberg says. If you are audited, you want someone who will defend your return.

Step 3: Watch for red flags. Steer clear of anyone who talks about cheating the IRS. Or a preparer who pushes you to take deductions, says you don't have to report certain income or promises to get a refund that will be a certain percentage of what you earn. Eisenberg also says you should avoid someone whose fees are based on a percentage of your refund. "If the preparer's fees are contingent on what you're getting back, he or she may bend the rules to get more back," he says.

Step 4: Mention any special circumstances. Let the preparer know about any events, such as a recent divorce or large lump-sum payment from a retirement plan, that will affect your tax situation.

Step 5: Pick a preparer. So maybe even after you've interviewed all your candidates, you're still not sure whom you want to hire or are nervous about handing over this important duty to someone else. After all, it's your signature on the form, and you're liable for the information on it -- regardless of who prepares it. "You need to bite the bullet and say, 'These people are professionals. They'll probably do a better job than [I will] because they know the law,'" Eisenberg says. Besides, you have to make a decision or your tax return won't get filed, he says. Just be sure to select an individual who will be available if you have questions months, or even years, after your tax return has been filed. You've made your choice. Now what?

NO TIME LIMIT
"Don't bring in a mess," Eisenberg says. If you take a shoebox of receipts and documents to the preparer, you'll be wasting his time and your money.


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Compile summarizations of your income, expenses, cost basis of investments you sold, Social Security numbers for all dependents, a list of donations you made (and documentation if necessary). Plus, take all the tax-related documents you have received in the mail and tax forms sent to you by the IRS. "Make it as simple and clear cut for the preparer as you can," Eisenberg says.

Do not sign a blank return. "It's like giving a blank check to someone," Eisenberg says. Be sure you are satisfied with the return before signing it because you are responsible for its contents.

When the return is complete, make sure the preparer has signed it. "If they don't sign it, it should raise a red flag: Are they doing something they know is wrong?" Eisenberg says. Besides, paid preparers are required by IRS to sign a return.

PROS ON THE CHEAP
If you can't afford one of the tax preparers discussed above, you still can get some help from a professional -- for free.

Your first stop should be the IRS's Web site. There you'll be able to search for local services, including free help lines and walk-in centers. You can also try the IRS's national hotline, 800-829-1040, although you're more likely to be greeted with a busy signal than a helpful voice -- and phone lines will only get busier as tax day approaches.

Another source of free person-to-person tax help is the AARP's Tax-Aide program. IRS-trained volunteers complete your taxes for you. The service is available to middle- and lower-income taxpayers of all ages, and operates from local community centers between February 1 and April 15.

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Cameron Huddleston is an online editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.



All contents copyright 2013 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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