Of course, my thoughts are biased – but I will provide you with as much information so you can make your own decision.
When looking for help with their US tax returns, many taxpayers search for “Tax preparation Service”, “tax preparer” or “tax return preparation”. It worries me that an American taxpayer with complicated issues such as the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign tax credit would place the responsibility of preparing their tax returns with any tax preparer.
While many may choose to work in the accounting field, just like all professions there are specialties. An accountant is not a CPA – Certified Public Accountant. A CPA undergoes stringent training and testing before the government decides to trust him/her with the duty of helping the public comply with tax laws. Besides specific education in certain areas, a set of tests need to be passed – which by the way I’ve heard of the pass rate being about 40% these days. One of those tests has to do with regulation, or tax law.
Based on our legislation, any individual can be a tax preparer. They can undergo a tax preparation service training module given by any of the big “fast-food” style tax preparation firms, and then go work in your neighborhood. This is a great business model, obviously, and I am not saying anything about their quality. What I am saying is that a 10 hour course will never compare with the amount of studying a CPA has to undergo in order to obtain and maintain their license.
I would also comment that a small firm is likely to pay closer attention to your returns – just like any other small business. I personally like to deal with smaller businesses.
But back to my thoughts on searching for “Tax preparation Service”, “tax preparer” or “tax return preparation”. If I could, I would suggest to these taxpayers that they search instead for US CPA, US Certified Public Accountant – and even better: Foreign earned income exclusion + US CPA!