The U.S. Tax Code was complicated enough before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Perhaps you want to make sure that you get every advantage possible in order to pay the least amount of taxes or receive the biggest refund possible, so you are considering hiring someone to prepare your taxes for you.
This may be a good idea, but you may want to exercise caution when choosing someone to work with. In fact, the IRS offers some advice regarding making your choice in order to avoid tax preparer fraud. Most tax preparers are hardworking, honest individuals, but as is the case in just about any industry, some take advantage of innocent people like you.
A little caution goes a long way
The tips below could help you stay away from a fraudulent tax preparer who could land you in trouble with the IRS:
- The IRS requires every tax preparer to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number, register with the agency and include the PTIN on any returns prepared.
- You can check the history and qualifications of the preparer with the IRS, the Better Business Bureau, the Missouri Bar Association, the Missouri State Board of Accountancy or other agencies to find any complaints, disciplinary actions and more.
- Ask whether the preparer has any professional credentials, attends continuing education courses or belongs to a professional organization.
- Ask whether you will have access to the preparer at any time during the year since you may have questions later.
- Ask whether the preparer offers e-filing since anyone with 10 or more clients must do so.
- Your preparer should not take a portion of your refund as payment.
- Avoid preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than anyone else.
- Avoid preparers who ask you to sign a blank tax form.
- Avoid preparers who want to information such as your Social Security number and tax documents when you are merely inquiring about their services.
- If the preparer does not want to see your records and receipts, you may want to walk away.
- You should absolutely have the opportunity to review your tax return before signing it.
You may also find that your gut will give you a hint as to whether you should use a certain preparer. If you don’t feel comfortable, walk away. When in doubt, you could always consult with a tax attorney who can help you with your return or any controversy you may find yourself in after working with a fraudulent tax preparer.