Filing your taxes is a big deal. You want a good preparer who knows their stuff, especially since you are ultimately responsible for the information that’s reported to the IRS, even if someone else prepares your return. So, here are 10 tips from the IRS for choosing a tax preparer.
- Check their qualifications. You can use the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications to find a preparer with the qualifications you’re looking for.
- Check their history. Check with your local Better Business Bureau and be sure to check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy; for attorneys, the State Bar Association; and for Enrolled Agents, you can use the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov or check the directory. You can also check a preparer’s customer service is by using Yelp, Google reviews or social media.
- Ask about service fees. Never use a preparer who bases fees on a percentage of your refund or says they can get you a bigger refund. Don’t give your documents or personal information to a preparer when inquiring about fees.
- Ask to E-File. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. This is the quickest way to get your refund.
- Is your preparer available? You may want to contact your preparer outside of tax season so avoid fly-by-night preparers.
- Provide records and receipts. If your preparer doesn’t ask for documentation or questions to figure things out like your total income, that’s not a good sign.
- Never sign a blank return. Remember, you’re responsible for what is filed even if you didn’t prepare it.
- Review your return before signing it. If something seems off or isn’t clear, ask your preparer about it. Your preparer should give you a copy of your completed return for your records. Also, make sure the refund is going directly to you, not your preparer.
- Make sure your preparer signs the return and includes their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a PTIN and required by law to include it and their signature on your return.
- Report suspicious tax preparers. Most tax preparers are honest and provide great service; however, there are those who try to take advantage of their clients. You can report abusive preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you think your preparer changes your return without your consent, file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.
Choosing a tax preparer isn’t a task to think about only in January. You could be making smart tax planning moves right now. If you’re interested in mid-year tax planning, reach out to your Henry+Horne advisor.