With tax season upon us, choosing the right professional preparer is key. Here's what to consider.

WHO DO YOU NEED?

Determine the complexity of your accounting needs. Life-changing events such as marriage, divorce or losses from superstorm Sandy, for example, may affect your tax situation, points out Robin Rokuson, CPA and partner-in-charge of the tax department of Gettry Marcus CPA in Woodbury. The more complicated your circumstances, the more likely you need an enrolled agent, CPA or perhaps even an attorney.

If your taxes are not much beyond a W-2, you may be able to do your own taxes with a computer program, or use a storefront provider, says Patricia Seaman, senior director of marketing and communications for the National Endowment for Financial Education in Denver.

PLAY DETECTIVE

"Check with the state board of accountancy, the Better Business Bureau. Do they have any complaints against them?" asks Barry Pulchin, CPA and member of Metis Group CPAs in Plainview. For attorneys, check with the state bar association; for enrolled agents, with the IRS office. Ask about credentials and experience. Get references. You want someone who has worked with people like you.

WATCH FOR RED FLAGS

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Be wary of anyone who claims they can get you a larger refund than other preparers, charges a fee based on the size of your refund, or only works part-time as a tax preparer, says Ric Edelman of Edelman Financial Services in Fairfax, Va. Be clear on fees up front. Trust your gut; chemistry counts.