How to Choose a Tax Preparer, Part II

Here are your remaining tips on How to Choose a Tax Preparer:

Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. Questions can arise at any time. Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date. Questions can arise several years after you file a return.

Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Reputable preparers will want to see your records and receipts. They will ask you many questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for deductions and credits. Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 by using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.

Never sign a blank return.

Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it. Remember that you are ultimately responsible and fully liable for all information on the tax return. Just because someone else prepared and signed your tax return does not mean that you are no longer responsible for it. Tax evasion is a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes his or her preparer tax identification number (PTIN). A paid preparer must sign the return and include his or her PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

Some preparers will try to sell you additional products, investments or loans. Don’t make any sudden decisions. Take the information home and do research on the product before you commit.

You can report abusive tax preparers to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. Download Form 14157 and fill it out or order by mail at 800-TAX FORM (800-829-3676). The form includes the address where it should be mailed.

Until next week,
-Patti Spencer