As tax time nears we are faced with lots of decisions including whether to do our own taxes or hire someone to help.
Do It Yourself
If your return is straightforward you can do it yourself. The IRS has created several tools to help you decide. Start with the web page What Is My Filing Status? This Interactive Tax Assistant walks you through the process to determine your filing status. It then provides lots of fact sheets on topics that may interest you such as deductions and eligibility for credits.
You also might qualify to file your taxes for free, check this page to find out. Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free
If you chose to hire someone to complete your taxes do some research first and follow these suggestions:
- Check their qualifications
The IRS has a directory of all tax preparers with their qualifications. All you need to do is enter your zip code and receive a list you can search to find the right professional for you. https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
- Check their history
Find out if they have ever had someone complain about their services. The Better Business Bureau would have a record of any complaints. If they have a license as an accountant, attorney or IRS enrolled agent, check with the licensing boards for each or search the IRS website for “verify enrolled agent status”. People can mispresent themselves.
- Ask about fees
Do not use a preparer who takes a percentage of your return instead of a fee. This encourages them to mispresent your earnings.
- Ask to e-file
It is safe and speeds up processing of your return.
- Avoid fly by night operations
You may need to talk to them after April 15th, chose someone with a history in the community.
- Provide records and receipts
A good preparer needs complete documents to do their job properly. It is against IRS rules to use your last pay stub to file, for example.
- Never sign a blank return
If the return is yours, you are responsible, even if you are duped by an unscrupulous preparer.
- Review before signing
Ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure the return goes directly to you, not the preparers bank account. Check the routing and bank account number on the competed return.
- Make sure the preparer signs and includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)
All tax preparers must have a PTIN and are required to sign and include their PTIN.
- Report abusive preparers to the IRS
Be aware that tax season is a prime time for criminals and other scam artists who try to fool Elders and take their hard-earned money. Some examples include: IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams, Scams Targeting Tax Professionals, Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals, Email, Phishing, Malware Schemes, and Fraudsters Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. There are so many variations the IRS has a detailed page outlining the types of scams and what to do if you suspect you have been victimized. Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts
Report Bad Experiences
If you had a bad experience use these forms to complain. Complaint: Tax Return Preparer Form 14157. If you think a preparer filed or changed your return with your consent file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.
The majority of tax preparers are honest and work hard to make sure their clients receive an accurate return without errors. Follow these guidelines and then your biggest decision will be what to do with your refund!
Things to Remember When Choosing a Tax Preparer. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/things-to-remember-when-choosing-a-tax-preparer