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A Checklist of Items to do when choosing a Tax Preparer and reviewing their work.

Taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely because taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return no matter who prepares the return.

Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that they prefer. The Directory is a searchable listing of all preparers with a credentials or filing season qualifications. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of: Attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents, Enrolled Actuaries, and Annual Filing Season Program participants.

Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy.

Red Flags. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition because most of these have incentive to fraudulently inflate your refund amount. When inquiring about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers and other information. Some preparers have improperly used this information to file returns without the taxpayer’s permission. Never use a preparer who asks you to sign a blank return.

E-file. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has safely processed billions of e-filed tax returns. This is also the fastest way to get your refund because e-filed returns are processed much faster than those that are submitted on paper. At Robert Loe & Associates, we have lots of experience with the E-file system and is our preferred method of return filing.

Engagement. Good preparers will engage with you as a unique individual and will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure the total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Taxpayers should not use a preparer who will e-file their return using their last pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

Review. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return to ensure refunds are going to the proper accounts. We always recommend that you review the return and ask us questions about our work. “Return Auditors” help us because in a lot of cases, a taxpayer will review the return and realize it may be missing something that they forgot to tell their preparer. We can ask as many questions as possible and use the previous year return as a guide, but if something new happened in the year that we don’t know about, it is hard for us to put it on the return.

Preparer Signature and PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

See Something, Say Something. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS.

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