Business

Eight tips to help choose a tax preparer

The IRS urges people to use care and caution when choosing a tax preparer.

Remember, you are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return even if it was prepared by another individual or firm.

Most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients.

However, unscrupulous tax return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients.

Therefore, it’s important to find a qualified tax professional.

The following tips will help you choose a preparer who will offer the best service for your tax preparation needs.

1. Check the person’s qualifications. Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.

2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state’s board of accountancy for CPAs or the state’s bar association for attorneys.

3. Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers that base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.

4. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after April 15, in case questions arise.

5. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.

6. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.

7. Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

8. Make sure the preparer signs the form. A paid preparer must sign the return as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 3949-A, Information Referral or by sending a letter to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Download Form 3949-A from IRS.gov or order by mail at 800-829-3676.

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