How to Identify a Top-Notch Tax Consultant

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Although most tax consultants are honest professionals, unscrupulous ones do exist. Before you start searching for a tax consultant, you might be wondering about all the different kinds of tax professionals out there or who can do your taxes. Basically, anyone can call himself a tax consultant and file your return for you. So, to find the right top-notch tax pro for you, you need to be asking the following questions:

1. Do you belong to a professional body?

Fact: the tax industry in South Africa is unregulated. There is nothing to stop anyone from calling himself a ‘tax consultant’ and charging a fee for advice. There are, however, some guidelines. Ask the consultant if he is registered with the Financial Services Board, or telephone the FSB to find out if he is (tel: 0800 110 443. If he’s not, check his academic qualifications and professional history.

2. What tax qualifications do you have?

Some reputable tax consultants have a Higher Diploma in Tax Law. If your consultant has one, you can be sure he has the qualifications to give you professional advice. Some con-artists may claim qualifications which are either useless, or simply not earned.

3. What are your main areas of expertise?

All tax advisers have specialist areas – individual taxation and corporate taxation, for example. Pick a firm with a wide range of expertise, or an individual with specific knowledge of your trade or profession. Choosing someone who understands your line of business will save you time and money.

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4. Do you have professional indemnity insurance?

Tax advisers are not obliged to carry insurance, and those that do usually limit their liability to double the amount of the fee that they are charging you for the service. To avoid major problems declare your income honestly.

5. What personalised services can you offer me?

Don’t select a tax consultant simply to fill in your tax return. You need someone who will tell you the benefits of owning a new car, shifting your assets into a trust, or making plans to restructure your earnings for retirement. Choose someone who’s honest, imaginative and has a spotless reputation.

6. What will this cost me?

Most tax consultants can save you more than they charge, but if your earnings are modest, and your tax situation simple (for example, you have one employer, pay tax as you earn and do not have many deductions) it may not be worth your while to use a consultant

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