Here’s a short checklist to help taxpayers choose a tax preparer for the upcoming filing season
Tax filing season will be here soon. As people begin to gather their documents and receipts in preparation of filing a tax return, many are also choosing to use a professional tax return preparer. Anyone with an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number can be a paid tax return preparer. However, tax return preparers have differing levels of skills, education and expertise. Choosing a tax return preparer wisely is important because taxpayers are ultimately responsible for all the information on their return, no matter who prepares it for them.
Taxpayers can start their search with the IRS Directory of Preparers
When looking for a tax professional, taxpayers can search the IRS Directory of Preparers. While it is not a complete listing of tax return preparers, it does include those who are enrolled agents, CPAs and attorneys, as well as those who participate in the Annual Filing Season Program.
Before hiring a preparer, taxpayers should make sure they know what they’re getting. They can do this by:
- Checking the preparer’s history with the Better Business Bureau. Taxpayers can also verify an enrolled agent’s status on IRS.gov.
- Asking about fees. Taxpayers should avoid tax return preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund or who offer to deposit all or part of their refund into their financial accounts. Taxpayers should be suspicious of any preparer claiming they can get larger refunds than other tax preparers.
- Asking if the preparer plans to use e-file. The fastest way to get a tax refund is by e-filing and choosing direct deposit.
- Making sure the preparer will be available if needed. People should consider whether the individual or firm will be around for months or years after filing the return. It’s possible they’ll need the preparer to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return later.
- Ensuring the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid tax return preparers must have a PTIN to prepare tax returns and must include it on any tax return they prepare.
- Considering the person’s credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in tax matters. Other tax return preparers who participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program have limited practice rights to represent taxpayers during audits of returns they prepared.
Choosing a Tax Professional
Tax Time Guide: Free tax return help available in-person and online
Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
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