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Tax Preparer Questions for Clients

Tax Preparer Questions for Clients

For tax preparers, obtaining precise information from clients is necessary to properly compile and file their returns. Tax professionals can proactively retrieve this information by asking critical questions and strategically seeking specific client data. In doing so, preparers can identify clients’ extenuating circumstances and support a successful tax preparation process.  

We at Drake Software understand the challenging nature of this task and seek to aid you in gathering appropriate and relevant information. To this end, we’ve prepared a comprehensive list of tax preparer questions for clients that you may consider adopting to help your clients accurately file their tax returns. From basic contact information to specialized situational details, the questions suggested below are foundational in serving your business as a tax preparer. As with any personal client data, we recommend each category with sensitivity toward client confidentiality.  

Basic Client Information 

There are certain fundamental pieces of information that tax preparers must acquire from their clients. Below, we have listed several examples of basic knowledge that a client would need to provide in order for their tax returns to be properly compiled and submitted. Preparers can simply ask clients these questions to build the framework for building a tax return. 

  • What is your full legal name? 
  • What is your Social Security Number (SSN)? 
  • What is your date of birth? 
  • What is your filing status? 
  • Single, head of household, married filing jointly, etc. 
  • Be sure to confirm marital status, number of dependents, and any legal agreements, such as divorce or custody arrangements. 
  • You may also want to provide clear, detailed descriptions of each filing status, as many clients may be unfamiliar with how they should be categorizing or which status could offer them the most benefits.  
  • What is your contact information? 
  • Email 
  • Phone number 
  • Home address 

 For full verification, we recommend encouraging clients to provide official documents where possible as opposed to self-reporting; additionally, it’s a safe practice to fact-check this information by cross-referencing with other supporting documents, such as previous returns or W-2 forms. We strongly suggest obtaining records with a low risk of refutability, such as original government-issued IDs, birth certifications, and marriage licenses. By retrieving these credible documents, you can ensure the client, their return, and you as the tax preparer comply with rigid IRS requirements regarding due diligence. 

An excellent habit to facilitate effective communication is regularly updating clients’ information. Throughout the year, it’s likely there are changes to a taxpayer’s mailing address, marital status, or other data; encouraging clients to immediately send alerts in the event of changes is necessary to maintaining up-to-date records. This data will help preparers communicate with their clients at the most basic level, as well as address any concerns or send completed returns for review.  

It’s salient to note that this information, once gathered, must be stored with confidentiality in mind. It may be best to obtain these details in-person or via an encrypted channel. Some information can be communicated over email or phone, but it is important to emphasize secure transmission of sensitive data to protect each client’s right to privacy. 

Sources of Income 

After acquiring basic information, the secondary level of information tax preparers should inquire about is the various sources of income that a client receives. Make sure to include all types of income, including self-employment, rental, investment, and other relevant sources of pay. Gathering these specifics about streams of income enables tax preparers to accurately report client earnings and determine potential deductions.  

It’s pivotal to retrieve this information with the utmost attention to detail, to help ensure compliance with tax laws and correctly assemble the return. In terms of what tax preparer questions for clients we recommend for this category, consider asking for the following income details to ensure a thorough basis of understanding for the arrangement of each return.  

  • Salary and Wages 
  • What is the name of your employer(s)? 
  • At what address is your employer located? 
  • What is your employer’s Employer Identification Number (EIN)? 

Clients must submit W-2 forms to provide additional information about their incomes and withheld taxes, as well.  

  • Self-Employment Income 
  • What is the revenue generated by your business? 
  • What are the operating expenses? 
  • Do you use your home or vehicle as part of your business? 

The client would also need to submit a 1099-MISC form or 1099-K form for any miscellaneous payments they may have received as a result of services rendered to others. We recommend requesting a breakdown of all business income and deductible expenses to seamlessly and precisely report their net income from self-employment. 

 Rental Income 

  • At what address is the rental property located? 
  • What is the total income received? 
  • What deductible expenses are in effect? 
  • Mortgage interest, property taxes, repairs, etc. 
  • Investment Income 
  • What investments do you maintain? 
  • Interest, dividends, capital gains, losses, digital assets, etc. 

Clients should provide any documentation related to brokerage accounts, mutual funds, stock sales, and other forms of investment, as well.  

  • Retirement Income 
  • What retirement income do you receive? What is the total amount drawn from a given year? 
  • Pensions, annuities, Social Security benefits, distributions from their 401(k) or Roth retirement accounts, etc. 

Tax preparers should also solicit Form 1099-R from eligible clients to accurately report retirement income. 

  • Other Forms of Income 
  • What other forms of payment do you receive? 
  • Alimony, royalties, unemployment compensation, cancelled debt, scholarships, state tax refunds, etc. 

Stress the importance of compliance with tax regulations so that clients relay accurate and complete data, as well as any supporting documentation.  

Credits and Deductions 

Tax preparers may explore potential deductions and credits that apply to client’s specific circumstances to maximize their benefits. In order to fully consider the possible alternatives, there are certain deductive questions that can provide further clarification.  

  • What medical expenses did you pay for in the past year? 
  • Did you pay for any mortgage interest or property taxes? 
  • Were there any education expenses you paid for, whether for yourself or a dependent? 
  • Tuition payments, student loan interests, etc. 
  • What charitable contributions, if any, did you make? 
  • Are there any other significant expenses you incurred in the past year? 
  • What state and local taxes have you paid? 
  • Can you provide additional documentation about your health insurance coverage for you and your dependents? 
  • Form 1095-A, Form 1095-B, Form 1095-C, exemptions, coverage subsidies, etc. 

As a note, to claim deductions accurately, clients must provide supporting documentation where possible, such as receipts, invoices, or statements. Additionally, due diligence is required by the IRS for a multitude of different credits. 


Another substantial portion of a complete return is dependent information. Understanding the family dynamic can help tax preparers confirm eligibility for various benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, or claiming dependents for other tax purposes. Read below for examples of questions that tax professionals can ask clients to garner data about dependents. Please be aware that each question will need to be answered per dependent.    

  • Personal Information:  
  • What is the full legal name of the dependent? 
  • What is the dependent’s SSN? 
  • What is the dependent’s date of birth?  
  • Dependent Relationship:  
  • What is the relationship between you and the dependent? 
  • Child, stepchild, foster child, relative, etc. 
  • Residency Status:  
  • What is the residency status of the dependent?  
  • Provide if the dependent is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. 
  • Income and Support:  
  • Did you support the dependent financially? If so, provide an estimate. 
  • What was the dependent’s earned income, if any? 
  • Did the dependent receive scholarships or grants?  
  • Childcare Expenses:  
  • If you utilized childcare, who was the childcare provider? 
  • What is the address of the provider? 
  • What amount was paid for childcare services? 
  • Custody Agreements: 
  • In cases with divorced or separated parents, what custody agreements or court orders are in effect?  

Changes in Life Circumstances 

Another set of data that can prove to be impactful on a tax return is changes in life circumstances. Significant life updates, like marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or the purchase of a home, can have substantial implications that must be addressed on that client’s return. 

In the interest of proactive communication, tax preparers should ask clients specific questions to determine if there have been any noteworthy changes in the client’s life that may influence their tax return. It’s essential to be aware of these updates, as they may affect filing status, deductions, credits, or tax liability. We have prepared questions to help tax preparers uncover these changes for heightened transparency between the professional and client. 

  • Marital Status: 
  • Have you gotten married or divorced during the tax year? 
  • Have you experienced a legal separation? 
  • Did you experience the death of a spouse this past year? 
  • Dependents: 
  • Did you have a child or adopt a child during the tax year? 
  • Has a dependent child reached a specific age milestone? 
  • Did any dependents move out of your household or become independent? 
  • Employment and Income Changes: 
  • Have you changed jobs or started a new business? 
  • Did you receive any unemployment compensation? 
  • Did you experience any significant changes in income, such as a raise or bonus? 
  • Residential Changes: 
  • Did you buy, sell, or refinance a home? 
  • Did you move to a different state or country? 
  • Did you rent out property or use your home for business purposes? 
  • Education-Related Changes: 
  • Did you or any dependents start attending or graduate from college? 
  • Did you incur any educational expenses, such as tuition or student loan interest? 
  • Retirement and Investments: 
  • Did you contribute to or withdraw from a retirement account? 
  • Did you purchase or sell any investments or assets? 
  • Did you inherit any assets or receive significant investment income? 
  • Health Insurance: 
  • Did you have any changes in health insurance coverage? 
  • Did you receive any premium tax credits or subsidies for health insurance? 
  • Have you experienced any significant medical expenses or changes in healthcare coverage? 

By asking targeted questions such as these, tax preparers can identify any changes that may require adjustments to a client’s tax return. Additionally, these inquiries help support accurate reporting of all client data. As an important note, clients who receive advance premium tax credits are required to file to reconcile the advanced credit to actual deserved credit.  

As with income-related questions, these matters should be navigated with caution and empathy. Many of these life events can be emotionally charged, but it’s necessary for preparers to balance professionalism and good rapport with their client base. We suggest facilitating a cordial culture that is conducive to open communication, so as to ease any discomfort when clients must report changes in their life circumstances. 

Prior Returns 

One final area that tax preparers may utilize to submit a client’s return is their prior tax documentation. Prior year returns are one of the best sources to ensure that tax preparers ask the correct questions, as clients may not fully understand the entirety of their returns or they may forget certain items. Requesting access to this information contributes to the tax professional’s understanding of the client’s financial history and helps preparers address any recurring tax-related issues. Below are some deductive questions that tax professionals can ask their clients to make necessary conclusions about any adjustments to the return. 

  • Previous Filing Status: 
  • How did you file your previous tax returns (e.g., single, married filing jointly, head of household)? 
  • Did you have any dependents claimed on your previous tax returns? 
  • Prior Income: 
  • What was your total income in the previous tax year? 
  • Did you have any income from self-employment, rental properties, investments, or other sources? 
  • Previous Deductions and Credits: 
  • Did you claim any itemized deductions on your previous tax returns, such as mortgage interest, state and local taxes, or medical expenses? 
  • Did you claim any tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, or education-related credits? 
  • Refund or Tax Liability: 
  • Did you receive a refund or owe any taxes on your previous tax returns? 
  • If you owed taxes, did you make any estimated tax payments or have any outstanding balances? 
  • Prior Filing Method: 
  • Did you file your previous tax returns electronically or by mail? 
  • Did you use a tax professional or tax software to prepare your previous returns? 
  • Any Tax Notices or Audits: 
  • Have you received any tax notices or been audited by the IRS or state tax authorities? 
  • Are there any ongoing or pending tax issues that need to be addressed? 

Desk Reference Guide 

Finally, we at Drake Software pride ourselves on our outstanding customer service and equipping our valued clients with the resources they need to thrive. We offer a comprehensive Desk Reference Guide that can help you prepare for the upcoming tax season, identify critical questions to ask clients, credit and deduction information, and other relevant pieces of information. Our greatest hope is that you feel enabled for success with a collection of tools that will foster healthy client relationships, ask engaging and informative questions, and increase the accuracy of your returns.  


Overall, we hope this guide resources you with explicative questions that enhance your understanding of your clients and aids you in reporting returns without errors. There is an expanse of data that tax preparers must retrieve from their clients, ranging from basic personal information and income to occurrences that change a client’s life situation. Tax preparers must approach gathering this information with consideration to client privacy and empathy for their circumstances, so this guide can support your intentional and strategic planning for approaching those subjects as a tax professional. 

Emily McCollin