|Posted on February 4, 2016 at 11:50 AM|
It's that time of the year when we pull out all those receipts we've been hoarding during the previous year to either do our own taxes, or drop on a professional tax preparer. Doing them yourself is so much easier with the few computer programs out on the market, but if the idea of devoting several weekends to working through that program's myriad of questions is not your idea of finding your best return, hiring a professional may be the next item on your To Do list.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants to remind us to be particular about who we hire to do our taxes (or the taxes of our loved ones). There are unscrupulous folks out there who just want to steal your identity, or file for deductions you might not be eligible to, just to get you a better return, and thus get them a higher fee. The IRS has some suggestions for how to search for a tax preparer:
- Ask if they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Preparers are required to register with the IRS, and get one of these numbers.
- Ask if they have a professional degree (certified public accountant [CPA], enrolled agent, lawyer), attends continuing education classes, or belong to a professional association. They are not required to have a professional credential, but most do because they are interested in giving you the most up-to-date and best service.
- The IRS has a tool on their website to help you find a certified preparer in your area: http://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
- Ask the Better Business Bureau if there have been any complaints filed for this preparer. Check on the website for the professional association this preparer says they belong to for any issues with their membership. For CPA's check the State Board for Accountancy. For attorney's, check the State Bar Association.
- Preparers are not allowed to base their fee on the amount of your refund, so ask them how they will base your fee?
- Ask them to e-file through the IRS. It is the safest and fastest way to get your return. Preparers who have more than 10 clients must e-file.
- Make sure your preparer will be available for questions you may have after your return is filed. Fly-by-night preparers will often not be easy to find again.
- Understand if they can represent you in front of the IRS if an audit is necessary. Certified perparers can. Others are limited in what they can do.
- Never sign a blank return!
- Before you sign a completed return, review it, ask all questions until you feel satisfied and comfortable.
- Report any tax preparer misconduct to the IRS