One of the largest woes of humans interested in western fashion is the inability to find the right pair of jeans. The expectation is that these said jeans will be something they can use in various situations and they will not need to switch out anytime soon. Finding the right tax consultant is a search much like this one. The terrifying similarity arises when you realize you can outgrow your jeans (just as your business size outgrows the capabilities of your tax consultant) or there may be changes in fashion that leave these jeans obsolete (much like how there are real-world changes that some consultants may not be able to cope with).
Who is a tax consultant?
A tax consultant is an individual with a chartered accountancy degree, holding a certificate of practice. They assist companies and individuals in tax filings, tax planning, and general taxation-related compliance’s. Regardless of the size of a company a tax consultant is vital to ensure tax optimization and reduction of tax liabilities.
Golden rules to spot the perfect tax consultant
What’s the work to be done?
Do you need a tax consultant only to file your taxes or to do advisory work and planning? How regular is the work that needs a tax consultant’s attention? Do they need to be internal or external? Depending on the answers for the above you can either pick a local firm or individual in practice or go in for a larger corporate.
Word of mouth works like a charm
Especially in an orthodox country like India, using referrals to find tax consultants is highly recommended. This method of “somebody who knows somebody” leads to a certain level of reassurance that the firm or individual is legitimate and will have the moral code as the person who referred them. However, it is up to you to do your due diligence regardless of the references provided.
Spot those Red Flags!
Certain things to watch out for when you go consultant shopping is:
- If a tax consultant promises you large refunds or that they can help you “elude/evade” taxes
- Not looping you in the process of recording your income and deductions. Claiming things without your go-ahead.
- Not using online features by the Revenue Department to aid in a full declaration of details might imply they are tweaking offline forms and manually filing incorrect details
- If they are extremely rude, condescending, or have bad social skills but are said to be “best in the business” they might not have your best interests at heart
These are just a non-exhaustive list of eyebrow-raisers that you should look out for. If you do spot any of these, don’t be afraid to IMMEDIATELY pull the plug. Extensions can be filed and deadlines can be missed with penalties but your sense of comfort with your reporting to the Government is not something you want to experiment with.
Conduct an Interview
It is extremely difficult, in recent times, to have a face-to-face with either your customers or with your employees. But when attempting to onboard a tax consultant it is extremely important to conduct an interview and try to have it be in person. This will ensure that you can explain your requirements correctly and understand the tax consultant’s bandwidth, experience, willingness to learn, and existing knowledge.
Make sure to ask them the hard questions so that later on you have no doubts about your hiring choice. A background check after the interview will give you a full understanding of what their work translates to in the industry. Even after asking all the RIGHT questions, you may make the WRONG choice and that’s okay. Keep your eye out for other professionals in the industry who can replace your existing consultant and be a valuable addition to your company.
Understand Fee Structures
At the end of the day, tax consultants are here to help you and relieve the burden of tax procedures. Their costs should reflect that. Ensure that you compare costs and chose someone who works into the allocated budget. Check whether they charge per hour or have a flat fee and understand what each of their services cost. If they outsource some of their work, check the pricing related to that as well.
The tax consultant that you choose is someone who should be collaborative and have your back, especially through the tax season when tensions are high. Happy tax consultant shopping! And hope to see your tax consultant choice be on retainer!