Tips to Help People Choose a Reputable Tax Preparer

  • Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it.
  • Taxpayers should confirm the routing and bank account number on their completed return if they’re requesting direct deposit.
  • All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number.

Whether taxpayers regularly use a tax professional to help them file a tax return or they have decided to work with one for the first time, it is important to choose a tax return preparer wisely. Taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return. This is true regardless of who prepares the return.

Here are some tips to remember when selecting a preparer:

Check the preparer’s qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.

Check the preparer’s history. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. There are some additional organizations to check for specific types of preparers:

  • Enrolled Agents: Go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov.
  • Certified Public Accountants: Check with the State Board of Accountancy.
  • Attorneys: Check with the State Bar Association.

Ask about service fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.

Ask to e-file. To avoid pandemic related paper delays, taxpayers should ask their preparer to file electronically and choose direct deposit.

Make sure the preparer is available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date.

Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never sign a blank return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.

Review before signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it.

Review details about any refund. Taxpayers should confirm the routing and bank account number on their completed return if they’re requesting direct deposit. If someone is entering an agreement about other methods to receive their refund, they should carefully review and understand information about that process before signing.

Ensure the preparer signs the return and includes their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN on the return they file. The taxpayer’s copy of the return is not required to have the PTIN on it.

Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Avoid “ghost” tax return preparers whose refusal to sign returns can cause a frightening array of problems.  Ghost preparers get their scary name because they don’t sign tax returns they prepare. Like a ghost, they try to be invisible to the fact they’ve prepared the return and will print the return and get the taxpayer to sign and mail it. For e-filed returns, the ghost preparer will prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer.

More information:
How to Choose a Tax Return Preparer

Filomena Mealy

Filomena is a Relationship Manager for the Tax Outreach, Partnership and Education Branch of the Internal Revenue Service's.  Her responsibilities include developing outreach partnerships with non-tax companies, organizations and associations, such as the banking industry to educate and communicate changes in tax law, policy and procedures. She has provided content and served as a contributor to various associations and online media sources.
http://IRS.GOV

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