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Here’s what to know before you begin work with a tax preparer

Posted on March 20, 2020

With tax filing season upon us, some taxpayers are looking for the right person to help them file their tax returns. If you are searching, do your homework.

Here are some facts to help with your search:

  • Most importantly, it is you the taxpayer who is ultimately responsible for all the information on your income tax return — no matter who prepares the return.
  • Check the preparer’s qualifications with the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers and their qualifications.
  • Check the preparer’s history. The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers.
  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.
  • Make sure to e-file. It’s the quickest and safest way for taxpayers to get their refund.
  • Be sure the preparer is available after your file date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers. Make sure your preparer is available in case you or the IRS has questions after this year’s July 15 due date.

Be safe. Be careful. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never, ever, ever sign a blank return. It doesn’t matter how close to the tax deadline you get, this is an absolute deal-breaker because it’s a sure sign of fraud.

Always make sure you have a chance to review your return before signing. Always ask questions if something is not clear. You want to feel comfortable with the accuracy of your return before signing.

Make sure any refund goes directly to you – not to the preparer’s bank account “for clearance”. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.

All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, and by law, sign returns and include it with paperwork.

Although most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients, there are always a few bad apples. Use this checklist to be sure the person or firm you choose is reputable.

Finding a CPA will guarantee that you get a top-notch trained individual with credentials you can trust – as well as knowledge of all new IRS rules and regulations.