10 Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer*

If you use a paid tax preparer to file your federal income tax return this year, the IRS urges you to choose that preparer carefully.  Even if someone else prepares your return, you are legally responsible for what is on it.

Here are 10 tips for choosing a tax return preparer:

1. Check the preparer’s qualifications.  All paid tax return preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).  Ask if the preparer belongs to a professional organization and attends continuing education classes.
2. Check the preparer’s history by checking with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history or if any disciplinary action has been taken against them; also check for their license status.  For certified public accountants, check with the state boards of accountancy.  For attorneys, check with the state bar associations.  For enrolled agents, check with 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 claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers can.  Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into an account in your name; taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer's bank account.
4. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file.  Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return.
5. Make sure you are able to contact the tax preparer after filing your return, even after the April 15 due date.  This may be helpful in the event questions arise about your tax return.
6. Provide records and receipts.  Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts.  They will ask you questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for deductions, credits and other items.  Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return by using your last pay stub before you receive your Form W?2.  This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never sign a blank return.
8. Review the entire return before signing.  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.
9. Make sure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.  The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
10.   Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS using IRS Form 14157, Complaint:  Tax Return Preparer.  If you suspect a return preparer filed or altered a return without your consent, you should also file IRS Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.  Download the forms on the www.IRS.gov website or order them by mail at 8OO-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:

* From IRS Tax Tip 2013-07, February 5, 2013