Tax preparer misconception cover screen


Few professionals are as misunderstood as tax preparers – at least according to the tax preparers themselves. We asked a broad range of CPAs, Enrolled Agents and other preparers and practitioners what they think are their clients’ most common misconceptions about them; the top answers follow.

(A text version of the most common misconceptions is available here.)
Desktop computer
A desktop computer sits on a desk inside a former regional government nuclear bunker in Ballymena, U.K., on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The property that was opened in 1990 and designed to accommodate over 200 people is being marketed by Lambert Smith Hampton Ltd.. Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

The computer does all the work.

“The public thinks all we have to do is push a button in the software and voila! a return appears,” said Enrolled Agent Twila Midwood at Advanced Tax Centre, in Rockledge, Fla. “They don’t know the education and administrative side.”
Horizontal photo of mature man relaxing, head position on tax forms, while working on his taxes with calculator with other office equipment in background

Anyone can do it.

I think the biggest misconception about tax preparers is that we do what anyone who wants to take the time, could do on their own,” said Jeff Gentner, an EA in Amherst, N.Y. “My clients often ask me about how I keep up with [all the tax law changes every year] and I assure them that I use many opportunities to keep current; online classes, national and local conferences, reading tax journals, collaborating with tax professionals all over the country.”
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Internal Revenue Service federal building Washington DC USA

Preparers work for the IRS.

“I think that the public's biggest misconception may be that they think we are part of the IRS and do taxes as a courtesy,” said Morris Armstrong, an EA and registered investment advisor at Armstrong Financial Strategies in Cheshire, Conn. “I have had people call me up and tell me that they need to file a return and when can it be done. The moment that my fee is mentioned I have heard the remark about it being a government service, or why should someone have to pay to file the taxes.”
Asian woman laying face down in tax forms with pencils, calculator and lamp on desktop

All preparers are equal.

“People need to realize that this is an art, not a science; any tax preparer worth his salt is not just sticking numbers on a form, but is using tax client information for planning and budgeting purposes as well as tax preparation,” said CPA Brian Stoner in Burbank, Calif.
1040 forms

All tax returns are the same.

“I think most taxpayers fail to comprehend the individuality of each return and see it as a sort of assembly-line process,” said John Stancil, a CPA in Lakeland Fla.

Their fees are too high.

“The public's biggest misconception about tax preparers is that their fees should not ever increase, or are always too high, regardless of how much work the preparer had to do on the returns,” said William Keats, an EA at Keats Tax & Financial Service in North Merrick, N.Y.
Accountant holding a large tax return refund bag
Business man holding income tax return with a happy expression of surprise. Big refund concept

Not being audited means their preparer is doing a good job.

“Since most people haven’t had any troubles with the IRS, their biggest misconception is that they have the ‘best tax preparer in the world’ evidenced by a lack of issues,” according to Stephen Mead, an EA in Bradenton, Fla.
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Preparers only work during tax season.

“I am so often asked by clients: ‘What do you do the rest of the year?’ Between extensions, IRS notices, questions regarding withholding or other tax related questions from clients, my phone does not stop ringing after April 15,” said Marilyn Heller Ayers, a CPA in Brick, N.J. “It might slow down a bit, which is a blessing, but there is plenty of work to keep me and my staff busy all year!”