Tax season is here once again, but don’t rush to the nearest tax preparer before doing your homework. 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.
Don’t fall for a “Ghost” preparer. According to the IRS, “a ghost preparer does not sign a tax return they prepare. Unscrupulous ghost preparers will print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. For e-filed returns, the ghost will prepare but refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.”
Before turning over your most sensitive financial documents to a tax preparer, take time to interview them first. Here are 10 questions to ask:
- Are you a Registered Tax Return Preparer? CPA? Enrolled Agent?
- Do you have an IRS-issued Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)?
- What is the service fee? Is it a flat rate or based on the refund amount?
- 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
- Will you also sign my tax form, once complete? Make sure the tax preparer also signs it and includes their PTIN.
- Will I get to review my completed return? Always review your tax return for accuracy before it is filed.
Check out Need Someone to Prepare Your Tax Return? for more information.