Money Talks: checking out tax pros

There are any number of ways to file a tax return.

You can do it yourself, use software or go to a professional.

The IRS isn't particular.

What we're concerned about is that people file an accurate tax return and pay what they're supposed to and get what refund they're entitled to," said IRS representative Mike Dobzinski.

You, on the other hand, should be very concerned about who does your taxes for a very simple reason.

Whether you use a professional or you do it yourself, you're the one responsible for what's on the return.

So it pays to find the right pro.

How do you do it?

Best way is to ask your friends for references.

If that doesn't work, just do a little online research.

You'll find what you need.

Once you've narrowed your list to two or three, it's time to dig a bit.

Make an appointment by phone or in person, and ask about experience, particularly with situations like yours.

Ask about credentials.

Remember, anyone can call themselves a tax preparer, but CPAs and enrolled agents had to pass a test specific to taxes and keep current with continuing education.

And by the way, this question is still relevant even at places like H&R Block.

Are they members of professional organizations?

It's no guarantee of expertise, but it does show they take an interest in their profession.

And whereever you go, make sure they're around all year and not just seasonal.

You'll appreciate that if you get an audit notice in August.

Obviously, the more complex your return, the more important it is to find the right pro.

But do what you do with doctors, a lawyer or a mechanic.

Ask lots of questions, shop around and pick the one that's right for you.

Want more specific tips on how to find that pro?

Stacy Johnson can help you out at Money Talks