Tax season is upon us, and many people are looking for help filing a tax return.
In doing so, taxpayers should choose their tax preparers wisely because it’s ultimately the taxpayer who is responsible for all the information on their income tax return. This is true no matter who prepares the return.
Here are some tips for folks to remember when selecting a preparer:
Consider Going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Site. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites provide FREE income tax preparation to individuals and families who make less than $56,000 per year. These sites operate between February and mid-April at locations all over North Carolina. Find a VITA site near you!
Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.
Check the Preparer’s History. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer. They should check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers.
Ask about Service Fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.
Ask to e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and choose direct deposit.
Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid “fly-by-night” preparers.
Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.
Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.
Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. Once they sign the return, taxpayers are accepting responsibility for the information on it.
Review details about any refund. Taxpayers should make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.
Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer (PDF).