February 25, 2013
When You Need Outside Help for Taxes
What clergy should look for in a tax preparer.
A brief Q&A recently featured in The Wall Street Journal offers tips for what to look for in a tax preparer. Many people hire someone to help them file their returns these days, the author notes, mostly because of the increasingly complex nature of the country’s tax code.
Those involved with ministry likely turn to some form of outside help for their returns. Clergy face numerous questions and decisions related to their tax status, and churches and clergy also deal with a number of complex matters, including the handling of housing allowances and the tax treatment of business expenses. Among the Journal’s tips for hiring a tax preparer, the following seemed especially insightful:
- Beware of anyone who wants to charge you based on a percentage of your income-tax refund.
- “Use a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides a copy,” the IRS says.
- If you have a complicated tax situation, you may need a tax-savvy lawyer, accountant or enrolled agent. Enrolled agents are private-sector experts with special expertise in taxes who are authorized to represent taxpayers at all levels of the IRS.
We’ve previously covered tips for selecting a church accountant, and what clergy should know before using tax preparation software. We also offer the Step by Step Clergy Tax Preparation Guide for ministers to file their taxes, a companion to our comprehensive year-round resource, the 2013 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.