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August 1, 2022


Tips for finding an honest tax return preparer

If you’re like most Americans, filing your taxes is one of the chores you most dread. It’s long, complicated, and often creates a lot of stress. That’s one reason you may opt to employ the help of a tax professional to prepare your taxes each year.

While hiring a tax return preparer can save you a lot of time and aggravation, it’s not without its risks. As identity theft and tax fraud become increasingly commonplace, it’s important to take steps to ensure the person you entrust with your financial documents is acting above board. Here are a few things to look for:

Client reviews

It’s worth checking with the Better Business Bureau or online review sites – such as Yelp – to read up on other people’s experiences with the tax preparer. Were previous clients pleased overall? Were there any alarming comments? Avoid looking at reviews directly on the preparer’s site, as these can be more easily faked.

Valid PTIN

A reputable tax preparer should use a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). They should enter this number on your tax return, and they should also give you a copy for your records.

Tax preparation fee

It’s not uncommon for different tax preparers to use different types of payment models. Some might charge an hourly rate, while others might charge a flat fee for each tax document required. Some might include surcharges for tasks that took extra work – such as if you provide disorganized tax documents, and they have to spend time sifting through them. None of this is suspicious.

However, if your tax preparer collects payment based on a percentage of your tax return, this should raise some concerns.

Suspicious requests or claims

While not every tax preparer operates in exactly the same way, their process and results should all follow the same parameters outlined in the law. Therefore, certain behaviors should make you concerned.

  • Did the tax professional ask you to sign a blank tax return? You should never sign an incomplete tax return, as the tax preparer could fill it with fraudulent information after the fact.
  • Did they promise you a higher refund than a competitor? Refunds are dictated by the law. Anyone who is filing your return legitimately should find the same refunds as anyone else.
  • Did they promise you a certain refund before even reviewing your tax documents? Refunds are never a guarantee, and anyone who promises them could be acting fraudulently.

Looking for these red flags before you hire a tax professional can help to prevent you from becoming the victim of a scam. If you are charged with fraudulent filing due to a tax preparer’s dishonest practices, it’s important to work with an experienced tax attorney to help resolve your case.

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