Check out their credentials & record
The income tax filing season is here, and the big question is who prepares your taxes. If you decide to use a professional tax preparer, the IRS urges you to ask around, and check on the credentials and record of anyone you may want to do your taxes. "A lot of people will use the same tax preparer from year after year after year, and they'll be able to give you some good references of people that are reputable, and will be around after the filing season," says Peggy Riley, IRS spokeswoman.
The BBB of Greater Maryland says after you've asked family, friends and colleagues, check their credentials and their record by going to greatermd.bbb.org. Riley says you can also do a Google search on these individuals, and see if they have had any trouble with the law.
Riley says when you're doing your search for a preparer, avoid those who promise you a bigger refund than anyone else without looking at your materials. "Nobody can promise you a better refund than another," she says. "They can say they'll work to get you the best refund, but they shouldn't be promising you anything before they see your paperwork."
The IRS also says don't fall a preparer who charges fees based on the amount of the refund you'll be receiving, and don't sign a blank tax form. Riley says you are responsible for whatever you put on your return, no matter who does your taxes. "Even if you go to a volunteer who helps you prepare your return, or you go to a paid tax preparer, you are ultimately responsible for what's on that return once you sign it," she says. "So make sure you go through that return, and you look at everything and make sure they're not taking any deductions or credits that you're not entitled for because you are the one that's going to be ultimately responsible for any taxes, or penalties, or anything that may happen later."
Riley says you also need to make sure your tax preparer will be around after the tax seasons ends on April 15th. "We do see a lot of people who set up shop just between January and April. And then once the filing season ends, they're no where to found," she says. "You want to make sure that person is still around so that you can ask them questions if something arises." Riley says the IRS usually contacts taxpayers with questions about their returns, or calls them in for an audit, after the filing season is over.
"Most of the tax preparers out there are reputable. They do a good job. They want to do the best for you. But there are some bad apples out there that will take advantage of the system, if they can," Riley says.