If you pay someone to prepare your tax return, the IRS asks you to choose your tax return preparer wisely-for good reason. You are responsible for the information on your income tax return. That's tru no matter who prepares your tax return.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer.
Check the Preparer's Qualifications
Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications you prefer.
Check the Preparer's History
Check for disciplinary actions and license status foe credentialed preparers. For CPA's check with the State Board of Accountancy. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status. For Attorneys, check with the State Bar Association.
Ask about Fees
Ask about fees in advance.
Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client's refund amount.
Avoid preparers who boast bigger refunds than their competition.
Make sure your refund goes directly to you-not into your preparers bank account.
Ask to E-File Your Return
Most tax preparers offer E-file-for free. Check to see if a fee applies.
Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 paid clients generally must file electronically-unless you specifically inform the preparer you do not want to e-file your tax return.
Review Your Tax Return Before Signing and Filing
Before you sign and file your tax return, review it for both accuracy and completeness. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for what is and is not reported on your tax return
Never Sign a Blank Tax Return
Never use a tax preparer who asks you to sign and date a blank tax form.
Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN
All paid tax preparers must have a proper Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN.
By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
Copy of Tax Return and Records
Be sure your tax preparer provides you with a copy of your completed tax return that was filed and returns all tax records used to prepare your tax return to you.
Make Sure Your Preparer is Available
Avoid fly-by-night preparers.
Make sure your preparer is available whenever you have a question or need assistance throughout the year.
Choose the Right Preparer for Your Specific Tax Needs
All taxpayers are not alike.
Not all tax preparers are alike.
Be sure to choose a preparer who is knowledgeable and experienced for your specific tax needs.
Inquire about their education and ongoing training.
Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS
You can and should report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS using Form 14157.
If you suspect your preparer filed or changed your return without your consent, file Form 14157-A.
These forms are available on IRS.gov.
FINALLY, COMMON TAX FRAUD ITEMS TO LOOK FOR
·Creating or omitting income to generate a larger refund
·Creating false exemptions, dependents, and tax credits to generate a larger refund.
·Creating false and or inflated expenses to generate a larger refund.
·Using an incorrect filing status to generate a larger refund.
·Altering you tax return documents.
·Filing a return without your consent.
This article was written by Donald M. Scherzi, CPA, CFP, LLC
Mike Lupo, SCORE Counsel
Visit us at: www.scoresouthflorida.net