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7 Things The National Chains of Tax Preparers

Would Rather You Didn’t Know:

FIRST!  This is a very important disclaimer. As far as I know, all three of the national tax preparation chains are very good, honest and reputable companies. Each of the companies have some tax preparers who are very good professional tax preparers. In fact, I have several good friends who work for the national chains whom I would rank among the best in the business.  There are many more fantastic preparers who work for the national chains as well.

That being said, it is the nature of the “national chain” that brings a whole set of problematic issues. I would like to make you aware of these problems as I explore them here.

  1. The national chains have a large numbers of tax preparers with very little experience.  The national chains must hire a large number of tax preparers to service the large number of clients.  The vast majority only work two to three  months during the traditional “Income Tax Season”.  As a result, turnover is very high.  As a result, he national chains must hire large numbers of new tax preparers every year. Some offices have as many as 50% or more of their staff are in either their first or second year as a tax preparer. If you go to a national tax service, it is vital that you insist on a tax preparer who has at least 5 years experience. Don’t be surprised if there is no one in the office with that much experience, especially at certain times of the day or week. If no one is available and you feel you must use a national chain, ask them to schedule an appointment for you at a later time or date with someone with at least 5 years of experience. At Heritage Income Tax, even our least experienced tax preparer has 12 years experience.
  2. The national chains must use Tax Schools as recruiting agents. I’m sure you have seen the ads, “Learn To Prepare Taxes”. Most people are not aware these schools are the recruiting arm of the national chains. As was mentioned in the first point above, the national chains must hire large numbers of new tax preparers every year. Since there is no large pool of experienced tax preparers from which to draw, they must create their own pool of candidates. Hence, the tax preparer school. So the student takes about 30 to 84 hours of classroom study and is then offered a job as a “professional” tax preparer. Is that the level of professionalism you want from someone preparing your tax return?
  3. Most of the tax preparers at the national chains do not have any kind of license. Not only are a large percentage of tax preparers at the national chains relatively inexperienced, in most states, including Virginia and over 40 other states, only a very tiny percentage of them have any type of professional licensure. Again, the vast majority of them have only completed as little as 30 hour of a tax course and, for those who have been around a little longer, a modest amount of continuing education each year. They have NEVER been tested by any governmental body or even by any industry regulatory organization. They have also NEVER undergone any background investigation by either of those groups. I should note that all of that is about to change due to a new licensing law that is being phased in over the next couple of years. Even then, the new licensing law is only designed to insure that the tax preparer meets the absolute MINIMUM requirements in order to call themselves a tax preparer. To learn more about the new licensing law, click on this line.
  4. The national chains use company created certifications. At least one of the national chains has responded to the lack of licensure by created a set of company credentials that they hope will replace legitimate government and/or industry credentials. They may call their preparers by titles such as “Tax Preparer 3” and even add such things as “Additional Certifications”, never explaining that these are not “real” certifications at all.
  5. The national chains almost always charge higher fees. Many people seem to think that the national chains cost less to do business with. In actuality, the exact opposite is usually the case. The national chains, almost without exception, cost more, a lot more in many cases, than using a local licensed tax professional. The national chains have a much higher overheard than most local professionals, due to layers of local, regional and national management as well as many other factors. When clients come into Heritage Income Tax, it is not at all uncommon for them to pay 40% to 50% less than they had been paying at a national chain and is it almost unheard of that new clients do not save at least 15% to 20%. I have often said that “The best doesn’t have to cost more than the rest”!
  6. Year round service at a national chain is usually not the same as year round service at a local tax practitioner.Our company, just like most of the national chains, provides year round service. There are two really BIG differences between the year round service offered by the national chains and that provided by Heritage Income Tax Service.
    • Usually, the national chains have only one office open in a local area or district or region and that office may be many miles from where you went to get your taxes prepared. Now that may or may not be a problem depending upon whether they have transferred your records to that office or not. Further many times, the offices may only be open 4 or 5 hours a week, possibly a little more. At Heritage, we are open a minimum of 4 days per week year round. All your records are here in the same place where your tax return was prepared.
    • The second very BIG difference is that the person who assists you to prepare your tax return at the national chain probably will not be available to assist you in the off season. At Heritage, the same preparer who preparer your tax return is available year round to serve you.
  7. The term “National Chain” would lead you to believe that they can provide better service if you move to a new area of the country.In order to better describe the folly of that assertion, let’s talk about two (2) aspects of the assertion.
    • First, in our modern world of faxing, e-mailing and such, a local firm can service you just as well, regardless of whether you are across the street or on the other side of the country or even the other side of the globe. We have many clients who live in other states. They either mail or e-mail their returns to us. We follow up with phone calls, faxes or e-mails as needed. We even have the capability to video conference with them so we can see each other face to face. Some of these clients have even referred new clients to us who live out of state as well. The point is that it is no longer necessary to live near your tax preparer to get world class service from highly professional tax preparers.
    • The second aspect of the assertion relates to follow up when a client gets letters from the IRS or even if the client gets audited. The same principal applies to this as applied to the issue just discussed. In the rare even of an audit, we can have the audit transferred to our local IRS office and go to the audit in your place. Unlicensed tax preparers, including the vast majority of those at the national chains, and even those licensed under the upcoming new licensing law cannot do that. Why can we do this? Because we are licensed as Enrolled Agents. To learn more about what it means to be an Enrolled Agent, click on this link.

I would like to summarize by reminding you that these points are NOT meant as a criticism of any company or any individual. It is merely a reflection of the realities associated with being a “national” company who has to work through layers of management and who must hire large numbers of unlicensed tax preparers every year.

We invite you to give Heritage Income Tax a try. We guarantee that our fees will save you a minimum of $50 over what was paid to any of the national chains the previous year.  To read specific details of that guarantee, click on this line.

Thanks for reading!

There are even more and different reasons why you should consider using Heritage Income Tax.

Click here to read “8 reasons to consider using Heritage Income Tax”

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Heritage Income Tax Service, Inc. | 4303 Portsmouth Blvd., Portsmouth, VA 23701
(757) 488-7232 | Fax (877) 488-7232

Heritage Income Tax offers a full range of tax preparation services. Located in Portsmouth, Virginia, we serve the entire Hampton Roads area including the cities of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk, Newport News and Hampton.