Robb Hicken: Take care when finding a tax preparer

Special to the Idaho StatesmanFebruary 20, 2014 

By now, you should have gotten all your receipts, W-2s, prior returns and electronic self-preparation software together. But, if you’re like me, it suddenly becomes a daunting, almost overwhelming, task.

So, where do you turn and how do you know if you’re choosing the right tax preparer?

Here are 10 tips, from the IRS, to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:

1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN.

In addition, ask the preparer if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.

2. Check the preparer’s history. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses: For certified public accountants, check the state board of accountancy; for attorneys, check the state bar association; and for enrolled agents, check the IRS Office of Enrollment.

3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.

4. Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. IRS has safely processed more than 1.2 billion e-filed tax returns.

5. Make sure the preparer is available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return — even after April 15. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.

6. Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records. They’ll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items.

Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

7. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.

8. Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include the PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer.

If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.

Get these forms at IRS.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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