Washington, D.C. – Many people look for help from tax professionals at tax time according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Remember, though, that even if someone else prepares your tax return, you are legally responsible for what’s on it.
So, it’s very important to choose your tax preparer carefully.
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer
1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. Regulations now require all paid tax return preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. If your preparer is an enrolled agent, a certified public accountant (CPA) or an attorney, they have passed a high-level test to earn their title. These are the only three types of tax professionals who can represent you before all offices of the IRS.
2. Use a registered tax return preparer. By the end of 2013, paid preparers who are not enrolled agents, CPAs, or attorneys must take a basic competency test on Form 1040 tax preparation. They will become Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRPs) once they pass it. Hiring a person with one of these four important credentials to do your taxes is your best choice.
3. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions through the state board of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar association for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.
4. Ask about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. Remember your refund should only be deposited directly into accounts that are in your own name, your spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account.
5. Ask if they offer electronic filing. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return. More than 1 billion individual tax returns have been safely and securely processed since the debut of electronic filing. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file.
7. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.
8. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers who ask you to sign a blank tax form. Before you sign your completed tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
9. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN, as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report suspicious tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. Download Form 14157 from www.IRS.gov or order by mail at 800.TAX.FORM (800.829.3676).