If someone else helps you to prepare your taxes, you can check out their credentials. Ideally this is something you did before you selected a tax preparer. However, if you are like most low and moderate-income persons, you may be using a walk-in service or a free tax preparer and have less choice. You can still check out the person who is helping you. Tax preparers may have a variety of backgrounds. Some are volunteers who receive special training from the IRS.
Tax Preparers - The Accreditation Council for Accounting and Taxation is a non-profit independent testing, accrediting and monitoring organization. The site includes a database of tax specialists, searchable by city, last name or zip code. If your tax preparer is listed it means that s/he has met the standards set by this organization. You can call 888-289-7763. ACAT is affiliated with the National Society of Accountants (NSA)
Accountants, like lawyers, are licensed after taking an exam in a particular state. The first step is to make sure that the accountant you are working with is licensed. In Maryland, accountants are licensed by the State Board of Public Accountancy. You can find out if your accountant is licensed by the State Board, whether there have been any past disciplinary actions taken against this person, or if any complaints have been filed against them, by calling the Board at (410) 230-6258 Fax (410)333-6314 Location: 500 N. Calvert Street, Room 308, Baltimore, Maryland 21202-3651
There are two main professional associations of certified accountants: the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Society of Accountants (NSA). They essentially serve the same function, but are two separate organizations. Both are good places to check to see if your accountant is a member, and therefore, has agreed to certain ethical guidelines.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is a professional voluntary membership association for certified accountants that does quality and ethics review of members. You can call AICPA to find if your accountant is a member and if any complaints have been filed against them. 888-777-7077 or 201-938-3750.
Another professional association of certified accountants is the National Society of Accountants. The NSA website contains a database searchable by city, zip code, or your accountant's name. The member database includes whether the member has been accredited and in what field the accreditation has been earned.