Pick a tax preparer carefully
Choosing a tax preparer is something you should do with care.
After all, this person will prepare a document containing the most personal details of your financial life. What's more, you will personally need to certify to the government that the document is accurate to the best of your knowledge.
You should always do an extra amount of research when selecting a tax preparer. Even though you've hired someone to prepare your income tax return, you are ultimately responsible and liable for the accuracy of the information.
Most preparers are professional and honest, but, like in any industry, there are bad apples. Time and time again, I get news releases that detail how the feds nailed a tax preparer for falsely claiming tax breaks and refunds for a client.
Here are tips on how to pick a tax preparer and protect yourself:
• Check the preparer's experience: You want somebody who's experienced, trained and is up to date on tax law changes and who can suggest tax-saving ideas for the current or future years.
“Taxpayers may want to ask if preparers are affiliated with a professional organization and attend continuing education classes,” the IRS said. “If your preparer is an enrolled agent, a certified public accountant or an attorney, they have passed a high-level test to earn their title. These are the only three types of tax professionals who can represent you before all offices of the IRS.”
• Does the preparer stand behind his or her work?: Do they guarantee the accuracy of the tax return, and if you're audited, will that person be around to assist you?
• Check the preparer's history: Check if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau. Also, check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state board of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar association for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.
• Ask early about the preparer's service fees: Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers
• Protect your refund: Make sure any refund due is sent directly to you or deposited into an account in your name and not a preparer's bank account.
• Provide all documents needed to prepare your return: Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
“Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return using your last pay stub before you receive your Form W-2,” the IRS said. “This is against IRS e-file rules.”
If you're claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, preparers must file IRS Form 8867.
• Never sign a blank return, and avoid tax preparers who ask you to do so.
• 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.
Pamela Yip is a personal finance columnist for the Dallas Morning News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org; she cannot make individual replies.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Range Resources cuts workforce 11%
- China rebound, Fed statement fuel rally on Wall Street
- Post-Gazette offers voluntary buyouts in bid to avoid layoffs
- Travelers find direct Web route to Priory’s spirited past in North Side
- Fed holds steady on rates
- Muni bond funds stressed
- PPG puts brand 1st in strategy to reach commercial paint market
- Plastics propel Bayer’s 2Q earnings
- Stocks drop at end of difficult week
- Analysts fear momentum in housing market won’t last
- Consol Energy, Range Resources report 2Q losses, plan deeper cuts