In the past, we have self-prepared our taxes. We feel that we might be missing out on deductions and proper characterization of income by self-preparing, so we'd like to hire a CPA this year.
What are the some things we should look for? Do independent CPAs generally perform far better than a service like H&R Block?
In theory a CPA would have more specific tax knowledge than a "tax preparer" but I find the value of the CPA title to be vastly over-rated at times. While I think the CPA, based on all the work he/she does for the marks has shown an ability to navigate a tough educational platform, your service experience will largely come down to the competency level of the individual you choose on your own specific matters.
I think you can briefly interview whomever you sit down with in an inquisitive way and make your decision based on a combination of their responses, their preparation costs, and your general intuition of the situation.
Hope that helps.
One key differentiation is "proactive" versus "reactive" CPAs. If the CPA talks about tax planning and helping you make important decisions affecting your future, then this is a proactive CPA. If they talk mostly about preparing your tax return, then they are mostly reactive. One isn't better or worse, just seek one that fits your situation and expectation. And remember, CPAs charge for their time, so a proactive, planning approach may cost more in the short run while saving more in the long run. Finally, it's always good to start with a referral. Check with friends, co-workers and family members. You should look for someone you feel comfortable with and want to build a relationship with for years to come. I would meet with at least two or three and then decide who is the best fit for you.