Tips to remember when choosing the right tax preparer

As a tax payer, choosing the right tax preparer is pretty vital. Remember that the tax payer is legally responsible for the details on the tax form, so if you are not the one preparing it, here are a few tips to help you chose the right tax preparer.

Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. This feature helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that they prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers with a credentials or filing season qualifications and this is a link to the directory https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:

  • Attorneys.
  • Certified Public Accountants.
  • Enrolled Agents.
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.
  • Enrolled Actuaries.
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants.

Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent clients in more limited situations. Non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before December 31, 2017.

Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association.

Ask to E-file. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has safely processed billions of e-filed tax returns.

Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When inquiring about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers and other information. Some preparers have improperly used this information to file returns without the taxpayer’s permission.

Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 17 due date. Avoid untrustworthy tax preparers.

Provisions of Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure the total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Taxpayers should not use a preparer who will e-file their return using their last pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.

Do Not Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form because you are signing under the penalty of perjury. If you have a blank tax return there is nothing to sign.

Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However there are a few cases of dishonest tax prepaprer. If a tax payer encounters one please report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without the taxpayer’s consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Taxpayers can get these forms on IRS.gov any time.

Taxpayers should also always remember to keep a copy of their tax return.

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