With April 15th just around the corner, everyone should be thinking about getting their documents together and getting ready to file. As stated in our previous blogs, most individuals and businesses choose to hire a return preparer to complete their IRS filings. Remember- just because you do not personally prepare your return does not mean you are not responsible for the information on it. To diminish the possibility of errors and audits, taxpayers need to be mindful in selecting a return preparer. Here are a few pointers from the IRS when selecting an individual or firm:
1. Check the person’s qualifications. Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members continuing education classes and a code of ethics. Membership in such an organization forces the individual to comply with certain rules and holds them to a higher standard than Joe Schmo, whose personal code of ethics may not measure up.
2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check with the Better Business Bureau and state boards of accountancy or state bar associations to check licensure status and disciplinary filings. If you are checking out an “enrolled agent,” you can look them up with help from the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.
3. Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on the percentage of your tax refund. Also be weary of individuals who claim they can obtain larger refunds than others.
4. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. You may need to contact the preparer after the return is filed in case an issue arises or you are audited.
5. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most, if not all reputable preparers will request to see all receipts and documents and will ask questions in order to determine your income, eligibility for deductions, and tax liability.
6. Never sign a blank return. Enough said. Don’t do it.
7. Review the entire return before signing. Your signature swears under penalty of perjury that you believe the information is accurate and correct. So make sure you understand the information and ask questions if need be.
8. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must include this information on your return. Also make sure you receive a copy.
Following these tips will ensure you find a return preparer you are comfortable with and confident in.