Looking for a tax preparer? Here's what to avoid

IRS criminal investigations agent shares tips on how to select a tax preparer

7 percent -- All other spending
7 percent -- All other spending

SAN ANTONIO – ‘Tis the number-crunching season and there are several things you can do to avoid a tax time headache before selecting someone to help file your return.

One of the key things to avoid, according to the IRS, is a preparer who promises to deliver a bigger refund than anyone else.

"They're telling you that they can get you more, that they know some secrets, because there really aren't any secrets. The tax code is the tax code," said Special Agent Kent Bertram, with IRS Criminal Investigations.

Bertram adds that you also want to avoid a preparer who plans to deposit your refund somewhere other than your bank account.

"The main thing you want to avoid is if someone tells you they're going to put it their personal bank account or their business bank account," Bertram said. "That should not happen."

Here are other tips from the IRS:

  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
  • Reputable preparers will ask to see your receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
  • Use a reputable tax professional who signs your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records. Ensure your preparer signs the return and includes their PTIN number. All preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number).
  • Review your return before you sign it and ask questions on entries you don't understand.  No matter who prepares your tax return, you (the taxpayer) are ultimately responsible for all of the information on your tax return. Never sign a blank return. Don't use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank or incomplete return.
  • Always ensure the refund is sent directly to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not allow their refund to be deposited into the preparer's bank account.
  • Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of your tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
  • Find out 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 return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
  • Find out 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.
  • If something just does not feel right or you are uncomfortable for any reason, find another return preparer with whom you are comfortable.

You can search this IRS database to find a tax preparer in your area.

You can also log onto this Department of Justice website to find information on tax preparers that have faced legal action. 

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