As the tax filing season approaches, individuals are urged to choose tax return preparers with the requisite skills, education, and expertise to accurately prepare their tax forms. It’s crucial to recognize that taxpayers bear ultimate responsibility for the information on their tax returns, regardless of the preparer.
Various types of tax preparers, including certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents, attorneys, and others, exist. Choosing a tax preparer tailored to individual needs is paramount. To assist individuals in this decision-making process, here are some tips:
1. Check the IRS Directory of Preparers:
Taxpayers can utilize the IRS Directory of Preparers to find enrolled agents, CPAs, attorneys, or participants in the Annual Filing Season Program.
2. Checklist for Choosing a Tax Pro:
Before hiring a tax preparer, individuals should:
– Check the preparer’s history with the Better Business Bureau and verify an enrolled agent’s status on IRS.gov.
– Inquire about fees, avoiding those who base fees on a percentage of the refund or offer to deposit refunds into their financial accounts.
– Confirm if the preparer plans to use e-file, the fastest way to receive a tax refund via direct deposit.
– Choose a firm or individual with a proven track record, recognizing that preparers may need to address questions about the tax return months or years later.
– Ensure the preparer signs the tax return and includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), a requirement for paid tax return preparers.
3. Consider Credentials:
Individuals should consider the credentials of tax preparers. Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents are the only professionals authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS in tax matters. Additionally, tax return preparers participating in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program have limited practice rights during audits.
4. Beware of Tax Preparer Scams:
Tax return preparer fraud is a prevalent tax scam. To avoid unscrupulous preparers:
– Be cautious of those claiming to secure larger refunds than other preparers.
– Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund.
– Report any misconduct or improper tax preparation practices to the IRS.