When you first get started with planning for the future, it’s generally about funding one or more retirement accounts. For example, you might add money to your 401(k) up to your employer’s matching level, and then dump the rest into a separate IRA. Once you move beyond that level of investment, though, the finances get a lot more complicated.

Maybe you invest in a few rental properties or open a brokerage account. Suddenly, you’re dealing with business tax filings and capital gains taxes. At that point, you’ll want the services of professional tax planners.

Never worked with a tax planner before? Read on for some tips on how to choose the right tax advisor for your needs.

They Offer the Right Services

Tax planners can offer a very narrow or fairly broad set of services. For example, let’s say your tax returns have gotten complicated. You’ll want a service that offers tax prep, such as tax preparation at Bogartwealth.com.

What if your needs go beyond that, however. Before you go looking for a tax accountant or tax advisor, you need a clear sense of your own needs.

For example, if you own a small business, maybe you worry that overpaying in taxes. Pro tip: there is a good chance you are overpaying your taxes. In a case like that, you want tax planners who specialize in small businesses and tax reduction.

They may help you find ways to defer taxes or even defer income to keep the bill more reasonable. They can also help you maximize deductions with advice on purchase strategies. For example, they may encourage you to make an infrastructure investment late in the year to offset profits.

If you’re more worried about what you’ll leave to your heirs or live on in retirement, you’ll want tax planners with a focus on estate planning and retirement.

Get Recommendations

Once you narrow down the kind of help you need from a tax planner, then the research begins.

Some people start on the Internet and compile a list of local tax planners who meet their needs. This is a valid approach, but it often creates a lot of extra legwork. You must systematically work your way through the list, meet with everyone on it, check some references, and make a choice when that’s all done.

On the “finding a tax planner tips” list, asking around is the preferred method. Of course, you must give some thought to who you ask about it.

If you’re looking for someone who will do personal tax planning for you, you’ll want to ask around with friends you trust and family members. Just make sure you try to pick someone in similar financial circumstances as you. If your friend just works full-time in a similar position but you run two side businesses, odds are good you’re in different tax brackets with different needs.

If you need someone for business tax planning, you’ll want to ask around with other local business owners you know.

Check Out Their Reviews Online

One of the nicest things about the Internet is that there are websites out there devoted to providing reviews of businesses and services. Granted, it’s not a flawless system. People with an ax to grind can visit these sites and leave terrible reviews.

That doesn’t make them a useless resource, though. The key thing you should remember when reading reviews is that you shouldn’t focus on one bad review or rating. Look for trends.

If a tax planner gets glowing reviews from 95.5 percent of the reviewers, that one bad review is an anomaly. Maybe someone didn’t get the tax break they hoped for and vented their frustration on the review site.

Look for patterns of complaints. If half of the reviewers give positive reviews but complain about poor communication, it’s likely an ongoing issue.

Meet the Planners

You don’t want to spend months at this process. Pare down the list to 3 to 5 options based on the reviews and services offered. It is very likely that you’ll find a good fit with at least one of those options.

Meet with each of the planners on your shortlist. The meeting serves a couple of purposes.

Right at the outset, it lets you get a bit of a read on the planner’s personality. Like it or not, some people just don’t get along. Loving your tax planner isn’t a necessity, but you should at least feel comfortable with that person.

The meeting also lets you get an overview of the tax planner’s process and experience. Ask about their experience at tax planning for businesses or personal finances similar to your own. While they don’t need exclusive experience with similar clients, they should have some experience with those in similar financial circumstances.

Ask About Fees

Almost no tax planner will commit to a price on a first meeting. With that said, they should offer you a fairly clear picture of their fee structure and how it works. That can provide you with a ballpark idea of what you’ll end up paying.

If they can’t get specific about what they charge or how they handle billing, that’s a huge red flag.

Data Security

Also, make a point to ask about their data security procedures. For example, you can ask about their data access control policies. You should also ask how they protect their network from breaches and hacking.

Just keep in mind that the person is a tax planner, not an IT expert. They should know what protections are in place, but don’t expect them to explain how those protections work in practice.

Tax Planners and You

Once you move beyond the basics of funding retirement accounts into stock market investing, real estate investments, or running a side business, looking into tax planners is a good idea.

Tax planners can not only help you minimize your tax load, but they can also help you maximize the amount you’ll pass on to your heirs.

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