Many people hire a professional when it’s time to file their tax return. If
you pay someone to prepare your federal income tax return, the IRS urges you to
choose that person wisely. Even if you don’t prepare your own return, you’re still
legally responsible for what is on it.
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:
1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. All paid
tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or
PTIN. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask the preparer if they
belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education
2. Check the preparer’s history. Check with the
Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check
for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For certified
public accountants, check with the state board of accountancy. For attorneys,
check with the state bar association. For enrolled agents, check with the IRS
Office of Enrollment.
3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who
base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get
larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you
or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into
a preparer’s bank account.
4. Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your
preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than
10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. IRS has
safely processed more than 1.2 billion e-filed tax returns.
5. Make sure the preparer is available. Make
sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return –
even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions
come up about your tax return.
6. Provide records and receipts. Good preparers
will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask you questions to
determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not
use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub
instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax
preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.
8. Review your return before signing. Before you
sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign
9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.
Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The
preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
10. Report abusive tax preparers to theIRS. You
can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form
14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed
or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A,
Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms at
IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).