Tax season is rapidly approaching and it’s important to do your homework before hiring a tax preparer. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” tax preparer. Interviewing potential preparers is the best way to find out if they are perfect for you. In 2015, the Tax Division of the Department of Justice permanently shut down more than 35 fraudulent tax-return preparers located across the United States, so know who you are dealing with before turning over personal and financial documents.
To make sure you’re working with a reputable tax preparer, it’s a good idea to check their complaint and review history at bbb.org. Check licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants, the state bar associations for attorneys, and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.
Before turning over your most sensitive financial documents to a tax preparer, take time to ask these nine questions:
- What is your tax background? The IRS has compiled a list to make understanding tax return preparer credentials and qualifications simpler.
- Do you have an IRS-issued Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)?
- How do you determine your fees? Is it a flat rate or based on the refund amount? Be wary of preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your anticipated refund.
- Who will sign my return? Don’t hire a preparer who refuses to sign a return or asks you to sign as self-prepared. Make sure the tax preparer also signs it and includes their PTIN.
- If I receive a refund, where will it be deposited? – It should never be deposited into the tax preparer’s account.
- Does the tax preparer offer electronic filing?
- Once tax season is over, will this office remain open should there be a problem with my tax return?
- What documents will you need to prepare my taxes? Watch out for a tax preparer who is willing to file your taxes without looking at your W-2. Doing so is against IRS regulations.
- When will I be able to review and sign my tax return? Never sign a blank return; Always review your tax return for accuracy before it is filed.