Many people pay to have their taxes prepared. You need to be careful when you pick a preparer to do your taxes. You are legally responsible for all the information on the tax return even if someone else prepares it. Here are 10 IRS tax tips to help you choose a tax preparer:
Check the preparer’s qualifications. All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. The IRS will soon offer a new Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on IRS.gov. You will be able to use this tool to help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory will be a searchable and sortable listing of certain preparers with a valid PTIN for 2015. It will include the name, city, state and zip code of:
Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.
Annual Filing Season Program participants.
Check the preparer’s history. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if a preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status.”
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 can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. You should not have your refund deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns generally must e-file their clients’ returns. The IRS has safely processed more than 1.3 billion e-filed tax returns.
Make sure the preparer is available. You need to ensure that you can contact the tax preparer after you file your return. That’s true even after the April 15 due date. You may need to contact the preparer if questions come up about your tax return at a later time.
Provide tax records. A good preparer will ask to see your records and receipts. They ask you questions to report your total income and the tax benefits you’re entitled to claim. These may include tax 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.
Never sign a blank tax return. Do not use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.
Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it thoroughly. Ask questions if something is not clear to you. Make sure you’re comfortable with the information on the return before you sign it.
Preparer must sign and include their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
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. You can download and print these forms on IRS.gov. If you need a paper form by mail go to IRS.gov/orderforms to place an order.
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Topic 254 - How to Choose a Tax Return Preparer
If you choose to have someone prepare your tax return, choose that preparer wisely. A paid tax return preparer is primarily responsible for the overall substantive accuracy of your return and by law, is required to sign the return and include their preparer tax identification number (PTIN) on it. Although the tax return preparer signs the return, you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of every item reported on your return. Anyone paid to prepare tax returns for others should have a thorough understanding of tax matters and is required to have a PTIN. You may want to ask friends, co-workers or your employer for help in selecting a competent tax return preparer.
Choose a tax return preparer you will be able to contact in case the IRS examines your return and has questions regarding how your return was prepared. You can designate your paid tax return preparer or another third party to speak to the IRS concerning the preparation of your return, payment/refund issues and mathematical errors. The third party authorization checkbox on Form 1040(PDF), Form 1040A (PDF) and Form 1040EZ (PDF) gives the designated party the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information for one year from the original due date of your return (without regard to extensions). See Topic 312 for information on how to extend the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information to a third party using Form 8821 (PDF), Tax Information Authorization.
Steps You Should Take to Find a Tax Return Preparer
Most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. However, dishonest and unscrupulous tax return preparers who file false income tax returns do exist. You should always check your return for errors to avoid potential financial and legal problems. See information about Abusive Return Preparers on IRS.gov.
The following points will assist you when selecting a tax return preparer:
Be wary of tax return preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than others can.
Avoid tax return preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund or who offer to deposit all or part of your refund into their financial accounts
Ensure you use a preparer with a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers must have a preparer tax identification number to prepare all or substantially all of a tax return.
Use a reputable tax professional who furnishes their PTIN, signs the tax return and provides you a copy of the return (as required).
Consider whether the individual or firm will be around for months or years after filing the return to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return.
Check the person's credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other tax return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
For more information about choosing a tax return preparer, see Tax Tip 2014-07 and IRS Tax PRO Association Partners on IRS.gov. See PTIN Requirements for Tax Return Preparers on our website, for additional tax return preparer requirements.
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