For millions of Americans preparing their taxes every year is a complex and stressful task, one that they usually count on tax preparers to help them complete. In fact, nearly 60% of American consumers file their taxes with the help of a tax preparer, but the IRS recently warned that consumers need to be wary of who they choose.
The IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, recently said that “We see bad actors every year that steal from their clients or compromise returns in ways that can severely harm taxpayers.” That’s a scary statement and, in order to help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of a fraudulent tax preparer, today’s blog will give you some excellent tips and advice. Enjoy.
First and foremost, always make sure that your preparer has an IRS Repairer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), certifying that they’re authorized to prepare federal tax returns for consumers.
When choosing a preparer, it’s best to avoid one that bases their fees on the size of your refund, for obvious reasons. Also, make sure that your refund is sent directly to you or deposited into your bank account, never the account of your tax preparer.
If you find a tax preparer that says they can file your taxes simply using your last pay-stub, instead of the initial W-2 form that you receive from your employer, definitely avoid them as it’s almost impossible to do that without their being able to verify what you tell them and have the proof they need to correctly prepare your return.
According to the IRS, the safest and most accurate way to file taxes these days is to do it electronically. What that means is that finding a tax preparer who can file your return electronically (e-file) is a great idea.
Remember that you, not your tax preparer, are responsible for all the information on your tax return. It’s for that reason that you should never sign a blank or incomplete return and, before it gets filed, review it completely and ask your preparer about any questions you have or errors you might find.
Lastly, your tax preparer is required by law to sign their name and include their PTIN on your tax return. Be sure they do, and also that you get a copy of the return that they sent to the IRS.
If for some reason you believe that your tax preparer has scammed you, you can report it to the IRS by filling out Form 14157 as well as Form 14157 – A, to report them and prevent other consumers from becoming victims as well.