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The term “tax agent” can refer to two different professions, both related to taxes. In one sense, it is a person who represents the government in investigation and collection proceedings to make sure citizens and businesses pay their taxes. The second meaning refers to a person who prepares taxes on behalf of someone else, offering professional assistance for people and companies who cannot or do not want to prepare their taxes on their own. This article focuses on professional tax preparers, rather than government employees.
Taxation can be a complex topic, and in many nations, the government allows tax agents to prepare taxes for a fee, usually handling the submission process as well. In most places, tax agents must be certified by the government agency in charge of taxation. This is designed to prevent cases where people pose as tax agents and either do not prepare taxes properly because they do not know how, or use their access to personal financial information for fraudulent purposes. People seeking a tax agent can ask to see the person's qualifications, including permission to practice from the government.
Certified public accountants, tax attorneys, and certain other types of professionals can act as tax agents. Many belong to professional organizations with their own certification programs and may use terms like “tax practitioner” or “tax preparer.” In some cases, people are only allowed to use a professional title if they are properly qualified, and people can report fraudulent use of professional credentials to the parent organization.
The tax agent will ask clients to gather up all their financial documentation, including records about income and expenses. Many work with their clients to point out areas for saving on tax returns and will ask a series of questions to determine if someone qualifies for particular tax credits, deductions, and other benefits. Especially for people who are not familiar with tax law, this can be a valuable service, as they may learn about numerous savings available, such as deductions for tuition, certain housing expenses, and other matters, depending on the country and the tax year.
Once the tax agent is sure she has a complete picture of the client's finances, she can prepare a tax return, using this information. She confirms that the information is correct and calculates the total tax liability and tax or refund due. Most will prepare federal and regional taxes at the same time, duplicating the information onto both sets of forms. Once the forms are all finished, the tax agent has the client sign them and submits, often electronically for speed.