Lately, I have noticed an increase in clients whose tax returns have been incorrectly prepared. I have seen where some of the mistakes are a result of people preparing their own taxes; however, a majority of the mistakes are stemming from actually tax preparers. Needless to say that errors in a tax return can cause a multitude of problems. But regardless of who prepared the return, if the errors result in a tax liability, you, the taxpayer are ultimately responsible. Thus, the question becomes what do I look for in choosing a tax preparer? In 2018, the IRS published a list of ten tips for choosing a tax preparer. The tips are summarized below.
1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. All tax preparers are required to register with the IRS each year. The IRS has directory on its website that lists the credentials and qualifications of tax preparers. Use this tool to either find or check the credentials of your tax preparer.
2. Check the Preparer’s History. There are numerous ways to check the preparer’s history. You can ask the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about the preparer. If the preparer holds a license (CPA or attorney) you can check with the state licensing board for any disciplinary actions.
3. Ask about Service Fees. At all cost, avoid any preparer whose fees are based on a percentage of a tax refund or guarantee a bigger refund than their competition. Also, when asking about fees, do not give any of your tax documents or personal information.
4. Ask about E-file. Make sure that the preparer offers e-file.
5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Make sure that you can contact your tax preparer year round just in case an issue arises with your return. Avoid seasonal tax operations.
6. Provide Records and Receipts. A reputable preparer will ask you to see your records. They will also ask questions to verify your credits and deductions.
7. Never Sign a Blank Return. If a preparer ask you to sign a blank return, take your business elsewhere.
8. Review Before Signing. Ask questions if something is not clear on a tax return. Remember the IRS will hold you, not the preparer, responsible for any incorrect information on the tax return.
9. Make Sure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers are assigned a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, preparers are required to sign the return using their PTIN.
10. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Use IRS form 14157 to report any abusive behavior to the IRS.
For more information please visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/ten-tips-for-choosing-a-tax-preparer. Please also contact our office if you have any questions or need to have a tax return prepared.