Check with BBB before hiring a tax preparer


By John North - Better Business Bureau



It’s the season to get your taxes filed. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began accepting 2019 tax returns on January 27 and the deadline for filing is April 15. While many people prepare their own taxes, some look to professionals for help. Better Business Bureau and the IRS say to choose your tax professional wisely because you are responsible for all information on your tax return no matter who prepares it.

About one-third of taxpayers use a professional to get their taxes done. Of those, eight out of ten people never inquired about the tax professionals’ credentials. Also, seven out of 10 of those never asked the tax preparer if they’d represent them in case of a tax audit.

BBB received more than 1,500 complaints about tax preparers last year, with common complaints including delays in getting refunds, poor service from preparers or tax preparation offices that shut down abruptly. Consumers reported more than 1,000 tax-related scams to BBB Scam Tracker in 2019.

Before you start your search, BBB says apply these tax tips:

* Check with family and friends. If they’re happy with who they’ve used, most likely you’ll be too.

* Consider the tax preparer’s reputation and years of service. Also, look for someone who has handled a variety of tax situations. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

* Determine if the tax preparer will be around to answer questions about your return in the future and can represent you in an audit and at what cost. In some cases, companies may set up a location for a few months and are hard to track down after April 15.

* Check credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney or an enrolled agent. All three can represent you before the IRS in all matters, including an audit.

* Find out if the tax preparer is a member of professional associations like the National Association of Tax Professionals and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Members of these organizations have codes of ethics, professional conduct requirements and various certification programs.

* Be sure the tax preparer offers IRS e-file. The IRS requires any paid preparer who does more than 10 returns for clients to file electronically via the IRS’ e-file system. Also, this is the quickest way to get your refund.

* Discuss cost. Preparers often charge by the hour to do your taxes. Avoid tax preparers who base fees on a percentage of your refund or promise larger refunds than the competition.

* Ask questions if something is not clear.

*Inquire about how they protect client’s personal information, how many people will see your information, is data encrypted and how they protect against computer network breaches.

Remember, make sure you and the preparer sign the tax return, get a copy of it and the payment receipt for your records. Never sign a blank return. Also, make sure the tax preparer puts his or her tax identification number on it.

If you have any questions regarding tax preparation services, get help from your BBB, such as a list of BBB Accredited tax preparers and Business Profiles on ones you’re considering. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301. You can also report tax scams to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker and the IRS at www.irs.gov.

By John North

Better Business Bureau