WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Not knowing the first thing about filing taxes is frustrating. That’s why hiring a tax preparer is important to guide you in the right direction and submit your taxes on time.
A tax preparer can review a client’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, income statements and personal and business expenses to determine which expenses and circumstances may result in tax deductions or credits. To find a trustworthy tax preparer that meets your needs, Better Business Bureau offers these tips:
- Research. Look at websites and online reviews.
- Ask family and friends for recommendations about who they’ve used and been happy with.
- Meet face-to-face with potential preparers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should not do business with someone unwilling to answer your questions.
- Verify the preparer’s credentials. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants and tax attorneys are all qualified to represent clients to the Internal Revenue Service on all matters. In addition, determine if you can contact the tax preparer all year long or only during tax season. You may need him or her to represent you in an audit.
- Confirm the preparer is properly licensed and is registered with the IRS and the state.
- Ask the preparer if he or she is a member of a professional organization, such as the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or the American Academy of Attorney CPAs.
- Check the preparer’s reputation, years of service and the variety of tax forms completed.
- Inquire as to how your personal information will be kept safe.
- Look for a preparer who will e-file your returns. The IRS requires any paid preparer who does more than 10 returns for clients to file electronically via the IRS e-file system.
- Provide records and receipts. Preparers should ask to see them to figure out the total income, tax deductions and credits.
- Review the tax return before signing, and never sign a blank tax form. Even if you don’t prepare your own forms, you’re legally responsible for what is on them.
- Ensure the preparer signs the return and includes his/her Preparer Tax Identification number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN on returns they file.
There are also a few red flags that you may be dealing with a scammer. For instance, beware of tax preparers who base their fees on the amount of your return. They may likely use shady tactics. In addition, avoid tax preparers who offer “refund anticipation loans,” as you’ll lose a large percentage of your return to commission fees. In addition, be wary of promises that you’ll get a refund. Until the preparer knows your situation, there’s no way to know whether you’ll get a refund or how big it will be. Lastly, beware of offers to file your return using your last pay stub instead of your W-2, which is against IRS rules.
If you believe you’re a victim of a tax scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker or the IRS at irs.gov. As always, put the BBB to work for you by visiting BBB.org or call 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301. BBB can provide a list of BBB-accredited tax preparers and business profiles on ones you may be considering.