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Selecting a tax return preparer, part 2: fraud prevention

Just before Christmas, we began a two-part post on how to approach decisions about selecting a tax preparer.

As we noted in our December 23 post, basic considerations to consider in sizing up potential tax preparers begin with making sure that the preparer you are thinking of using has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

In this part of the post, we will discuss steps that taxpayers can take to help prevent tax fraud by their preparers.

For one thing, be prudent with your signature. This means, for starters, that signing a blank return is not a good idea. Even if it is more convenient to do it that way, it is simply not advisable.

Similarly, it is important to actually review the complete tax return before you sign your name to it. If there is something you don’t understand, this would be the time to ask. And if the numbers don’t seem to add up, this would also be the time to raise concerns about the accuracy of the return.

Many taxpayers have longstanding relationships with established tax preparers who do their returns year after year. Even in those cases, however, it makes sense to review the return before signing it and having it filed.

Before the return is filed, another item to check is that the preparer has also signed the form. Remember, too, that besides the preparer’s signature, the return should have the preparer’s PTIN.

To sum up, then, there are several straightforward steps that taxpayers would do well to keep in mind when interacting with professional tax preparers. Doing so will help minimize the number of tax fraud cases involving preparers.

Source: IRS.gov, "Ten Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer"

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