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Tips to finding the best tax agent

  • July 21 2021
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Tips to finding the best tax agent

By Zarah Mae Torrazo
July 21 2021

Tax season stress is real, so we’re here to give you tips on finding the best tax agent to help you get through it without a hitch. 

Tips to finding the best tax agent

Tips to finding the best tax agent

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  • July 21 2021
  • Share

Tax season stress is real, so we’re here to give you tips on finding the best tax agent to help you get through it without a hitch. 

Tips to finding the best tax agent

Around 70 per cent of Australians work with financial professionals to handle their personal tax returns. This is usually the route for people who seek convenience, advice or peace of mind, ensuring everything will run smoothly during this sometimes fairly hectic time. 

While most people can do basic bookkeeping and other general financial-management-related tasks without being professionally qualified, it sometimes pays to have a trained professional to help you complete your tax obligations. 

If you feel like you’re overwhelmed by the process of lodging your own tax return, you should consider investing in the services of a tax agent. 

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A tax agent is a specialised accountant who has further studied the areas of tax and tax law. They are considered the best professional option when it comes to tackling complex tax situations, as they often specialise in specific tax areas. They can also represent you when dealing with an audit or debts to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

If you don’t know what questions you should be asking before investing in one, here is a list of tips to help you find the best tax agent. 

What is the difference between a tax agent and an accountant?

‘Tax agent’ and ‘accountant’ are financial professions that may sound interchangeable. In reality, though, there are some big differences. 

The main difference is that a tax agent is more concerned with your compliance with tax law, and will give you advice about it when you need it. They’ll also file your statements and represent you to the tax commissioner.

On one hand, you may think of certified public accountants as your strategist. Their main purpose is to help you pay less tax. They strategise and monitor your financial performance so that you can meet your goals.

Are you looking for a registered tax accountant? Find out how to choose the best one here

Tips to finding the best tax agent

Choosing to work with a tax agent for your tax return can be a smart decision if you choose the right one. Due to the complex nature of the job, it’s important to find an agent that is experienced and trustworthy. Here are our top tips to finding the right tax agent for you. 

 1.Check that your tax practitioner is registered. 

Every year, thousands of Australians entrust their personal tax returns to malicious individuals posing as tax practitioners, most of whom possess no qualifications or experience to do the work. People who have made this mistake usually end up facing significant tax debt and loss of money. Some people don’t even get their tax refunds. In some worst case scenarios, fraudulent claims are lodged in their name without their knowledge. 

The Tax Practitioners Board (TPB), which is the national body responsible for the registration and regulation of tax agents, cautions against using non-registered tax agents

“We know that taxpayers place a lot of trust in tax agents, but we’d warn people to remember the adage that sugar and salt can look the same,” said TPB chair Ian Klug.

With this said, make sure that your tax agent is the real deal. Check if your tax agent is registered with TPB’s public register at www.tpb.gov.au/onlineregister.

 2. Find a specialist.

Just as doctors practice different types of medicine, the tax agent profession also covers many areas of expertise.

Before choosing a tax agent, ask them what tax issues they specialise in, as not all agents are equipped to deal with some kinds of tax claims.

For example, if you want someone to handle your business tax returns, you should look for a firm that specialises in this field. If you are a freelancer or a sole trader, a specialised tax agent can help you complete your taxes and deductions as a gig-economy worker.

Look for someone who specialises in the type of return that you are required to lodge, and ask how much experience he or she has working with these types of tax returns.

3. Choosing a tax agent solely based on price may not always be the best decision. 

When you’re working with a tight budget, it can sometimes be tempting to go with the cheapest option. 

However, there is an average fee for preparing a tax return and tax agents often charge by the hour. 

If someone offers you their services based on the size of the refund or they claim they can get you a bigger refund, be wary and check for more options. Although this sounds like a good deal, you could get into serious trouble with the ATO for providing a tax return with false tax deductions. 

 4. Check their reputation and past performance 

Choosing the right tax agent for you requires some due diligence. 

Take a moment to check their reputation and their past work. You can also ask your acquaintances or financial adviser for referrals so that you’re sure that the tax agent you hire is capable of doing the job and they are not overcharging you for their services.

Check for independent reviews, check their website and the services they provide to see if they have a good reputation or not. 

5. Be wary of tax agents that don’t lodge electronically.

The ATO requires all tax agents to lodge electronically. If you’ve hired someone who doesn’t offer to lodge electronically, you might want to reconsider. 

It can mean that they are not doing as much work as they claim or are susceptible to making errors as they don’t have the proper software to double check their work and validate potential errors.  

Additionally, confirm if your tax agent will sign your returns. 

This step is required by the law. 

When you sign a blank return, your agent could include their own bank account number and steal your refund. Remember never to sign an incomplete or blank tax return. Also remember never to share your myGov password even with your tax agent, as it may put your personal and financial information at risk. 

6. Your tax agent must have initiative

Above all, you should look for a tax agent with initiative and that sincerely cares for you and your tax return. 

Look for a tax agent who is proactive in their approach. They should suggest and provide you information about areas where you can save money and potentially make more money. They should be asking questions regarding your occupation, your income and your expenses. 

Additionally, they should also be open to answering any concerns or questions, not just when the filing deadline is near. 

Another quality to look for a tax agent is that they keep up to date with tax laws so that they can maximise your return. They should also not take things too far or risk tax avoidance. They should be aware of all the deductions that you are eligible for, which you might have otherwise overlooked.  

Most importantly, your tax agent should genuinely care about you and your tax return. They should be easy to do business with, keep your best interests in mind, and act professionally when doing the job. 

Tips to finding the best tax agent
Tips to finding the best tax agent
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