Selecting a competent tax and accounting firm is an important financial decision. Here is a list of questions you might wish to ask about Pacific Northwest Tax Service and the services we offer.
What are the credentials, training and experience of our staff?
Our staff of tax and accounting experts hold extensive professional credentials and have decades of experience. Visit our About US page to see our credentials and experience. Many people use the terms "tax preparer" and "CPA" interchangeably. In fact, tax preparation and accounting are separate disciplines with different educational requirements and credentials which are described next.
Tax preparer - A person who is trained in tax law and uses that knowledge to prepare returns. In Oregon you must be licensed as a LTP, LTC or CPA to prepare tax returns. Oregon tax preparers are regulated by the Oregon Board of Tax Service Examiners. The Tax Board oversees a two-tier licensing system for tax professionals as follows:
- Licensed Tax Preparers (LTP) must successfully complete a minimum of 80 hours of education in individual tax law and pass the LTP Exam with a score of 75% or higher. LTPs must work under the direct supervision of a Licensed Tax Consultant (LTC) or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) at all times. Oregon Law requires the supervising LTC or CPA to provide adequate levels of support and to review all tax returns prepared by the LTP.
- Licensed Tax Consultants (LTC) are preparers who have worked as LTPs for a minimum of 1,100 hours over a two-to-five-year period and who have successfully passed the higher-level Licensed Tax Consultant exam with a score of 75% or higher. LTCs are authorized to represent clients before the Oregon Department of Revenue.
Certified Public Accountants (CPA) are regulated by the Oregon Board of Accountancy. To become a CPA, you must hold a 4-year degree and show that you have achieved the necessary hours of education in accounting, pass the Oregon CPA exam, achieve a minimum of 2 years of accounting experience under the supervision of a CPA.
Enrolled Agent (EA) status is the highest credential awarded by the IRS. The EA credential is recognized across all 50 U.S. states. To become an EA, you must pass all three parts of the IRS Special Enrollment Exam; or you must have worked at the IRS for five consecutive years in a position where you were regularly engaged in applying and interpreting the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and the regulations relating to income, estate, gift, employment, or excise taxes.
Accountant - A person who is trained in bookkeeping and in preparation, auditing and analysis of accounts. Accountants prepare annual reports and financial statements for planning and decision making. They may also provide advise on tax laws and investment opportunities.
Bookkeeper - A person who records the day-to-day financial transactions of a business. The bookkeeper is responsible for ensuring that all transactions are properly recorded in general ledger an other record-keeping systems of the business.
Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisors are persons who have demonstrated proficiency with the use of Intuit's QuickBooks accounting software.
Are your preparers paid by commission?
Our tax professionals are not paid on commission, because we believe the interests of our clients need to be the foremost concern of every member of our staff. Preparers who are paid by commission are less likely to seek assistance from more experienced personnel, and this is detrimental to the well-being of the client. Instead, our team of tax professionals shares knowledge and experience, working to match experience-levels with the needs of our clients.
Is your staff seasonal, or do they work year-round?
Good tax preparers are very hard to find. That's why Pacific Northwest Tax Service strives to provide a professional work environment that attracts and keeps our employees happy. We do this by providing opportunity for educational growth, a comfortable living wage, and benefits like paid vacations, sick pay and health insurance assistance. The majority of our staff work for us year-round.
Due to the complexities of tax law, it can be challenging for seasonal preparers to build adequate levels of experience and understandably most skilled preparers need to earn their living with a year-round job. That said, we do have two or three preparers who appreciate the opportunity for seasonal employment during the winter months of tax season. Our seasonal preparers receive extensive training and supervision to ensure they are up-to-date on tax laws. They provide invaluable support to our year-round staff during the demanding tax season.
How do you stay familiar with changes to tax laws?
We recognize the importance of understanding the complexities of tax law. In 2001, we founded Pacific Northwest Tax School, a licensed vocational school that offers tax education programs. Pacific Northwest Tax School has grown to offer an extensive array of tax education programs, which emphasize practical application of tax law towards the completion of the tax return. Each year, our entire curriculum is updated to incorporate the latest tax law changes. Thousands tax professionals throughout the world have completed over 30,000 hours of education through our school. Members of our tax preparation staff are involved in providing year-round support for our educational programs, including the creation and delivery of content to our students.
How many tax clients do you serve each year?
We serve more than 2,500 clients each year, including individuals, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, estates, trusts and non-profit organizations.
How is the accuracy of your work checked?
We review all tax returns for accuracy. We utilize numerous cross-check procedures to keep errors to an absolute minimum. These procedures include:
- A personalized interview with a Licensed Tax Preparer or Licensed Tax Consultant
- Completion of a detailed questionnaire
- Computerized error analysis
- Manual error-check by trained staff members
- Manual review of the finished tax return by the Designated Consultant
When and how can you be reached during the year and during tax season?
Our offices are open year round. We employ full-time, year-round staff.
Are you able and willing to represent me at an audit?
CPAs and Enrolled Agents are authorized to represent tax payers before the IRS. CPAs and Licensed Tax Consultants are authorized to represent tax payers before the Oregon Department of Revenue. We have experience representing clients before the IRS and the State of Oregon and are willing to assist our clients with audits or requests for information. Lisa Gumm, E.A., L.T.C., was an IRS small business auditor for 5 years prior to joining PNW Tax. Her in-depth knowledge of IRS audit procedures is a valuable resource for our clients and other members of our staff. Visit our Audit Services page to learn more.
How much will you be charging for your services? How do your fees break down?
Our pricing structure varies according to the service we are providing. Please visit our pricing page for detailed information.
How long will it take you to complete my work?
We emphasize accuracy, but recognize the importance of delivering a finished tax return in a timely manner. Our turn-around is generally 2-3 days for most returns, but complex returns or tax situations can take longer. You can help us achieve faster turnaround by bringing all required information to your tax interview. For example, if you bring all required documentation to your interview, your preparer may be able to complete your return during your initial appointment. On the other hand, if you need to deliver additional information after your interview is completed, it may take a few days or more before your preparer is able to block out time to finish up your return, depending on his or her workload.
Our series of Tax Organizers are designed to help you gather your tax records and prepare for your tax interview. You should also refer to our What to Bring and Tax Documents to Bring pages for a listing of documents and other information to bring.