10 Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer
Meet Melody Green, stakeholder liaison for the Internal Revenue Service, which provides educational resources in partnership with small business organizations.
Many people look for help from professionals when it’s time to file their tax return. 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 ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax return preparer:
Additional IRS Resources:
- Check the preparer’s qualifications.
All paid tax return preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number.
- Check on the preparer’s history.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Also check for any disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses.
- 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. Also, 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.
- Ask to e-file your return.
Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. IRS has safely and securely processed more than one billion individual tax returns.
- Make sure the preparer is accessible.
Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return, even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions arise about your tax return.
- 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.
- Never sign a blank return.
Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
- Review the entire return before signing.
Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions.
- Make sure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.
A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
- Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS.
You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or altered a return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Download the forms on the IRS.gov website.