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Choosing the right tax practitioner for you

By Jessica Anne Wood

With exactly a month to go until tax season opens on 1 July, Innovative Accounting Solutions offers three steps to help you choose the right tax practitioner for you.

While the launch of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) E-filing system may have made the process of submitting your tax return easier for the layperson, it can still be daunting. Even the smallest error and result in a costly tax bill or smaller refund, or delay your refund. As such getting professional assistance is a must for many. But how do you know who to choose?

Renier Nell, master tax practitioner and director of Innovative Accounting Solutions says that if you are in the market for hiring a qualified tax practitioner then you have to be cautious when choosing who you appoint.

Get referrals

According to Nell, your financial advisor will be the best person to recommend an accountant. Furthermore, your banker or a business colleague may also have an understanding of your overall needs and who could best assist you.

“The next step is to interview your referrals. For each, plan on two meetings before making your decision. One meeting should be at your working space, while the other should be at theirs. During the interviews, your principal goal is to find out about three things: services, personality and fees,” notes Nell.

Then contact their references to get a better feel of whether or not they are the right person for you.

Check to see if they are registered

Find out if they are qualified to offer the service and that they are registered accordingly. Anyone who gets paid to file a tax return on behalf of others, whether a firm or individual, has to be registered with SARS to offer the service.

In addition to this, they also have to be registered with an approved industry body. For example, the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT) or the South African Institute of Business Accountants (SAIBA).

These bodies are there to make sure that all their members are up to date with their personal taxes, that they don't have criminal records and that they have the necessary qualifications and skills to file other people's taxes accurately.

“Ask the prospective accountant/tax professional for their SARS practitioner number as well as a membership number with their industry body of choice. Use this to contact SARS as well as the relevant body to confirm their membership in good standing,” says Nell.

The fees

As with most services, tax practitioners charge a fee for theirs. According to Nell, most professionals will base their fees on the complexity of your tax return, as well as the time it takes to prepare and file it.

“To make sure you’re paying the right amount, remember to get at least three quotes before making a decision. However, the cheapest quote is not always the most cost effective in the end, nor does the most expensive quote equate to the most efficient service. Bide your time and weigh your options closely,” notes Nell.

On a cautionery note, Nell stresses that if a tax practitioner calculates their fee on a percentage of the tax refund that you may receive you should be cautious. This is not illegal, however, Nell notes that it is considered ‘highly unethical’.

“Ultimately, the pros of engaging a tax practitioner to do your tax returns far outweigh the cons. So, if you’re worried about paying more tax in the upcoming tax return season, see a tax professional and you may pay considerably less and save yourself a headache or two, as well as some much-needed time to rest,” adds Nell.

 

Handy tip: Get ready for tax season, TaxTim can help you get your tax return in order and submitted to SARS. You can apply here through Justmoney.

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