Marlborough, MA - When your employer hands you your W-2 form, it can be tempting to rush out and get your taxes done so you can get your refund. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises you to check your tax preparer’s BBB Business Review and watch out for pitfalls that trip up taxpayers every year.
"Every year, consumers file complaints with BBB about delays in getting refunds,” said Paula Fleming, Vice President for the local BBB. "BBB advises consumers to check out any business, including accountants and other tax professionals, at bbb.org before doing business."
Some tax preparation businesses are open for only a few months every year, and it can be hard to track the preparer down if you run into problems with your return. Some tax preparation offices shut down abruptly, prompting complaints.
Not all tax preparers are created equal, so it’s important to check a preparer’s qualifications. Ask what will happen if the Internal Revenue Service rejects or challenges your return.
Some tax preparers may offer to give you a check or debit card rather than wait for the IRS to mail your refund. BBB advises consumers that these are loans – and they could be costly ones. Some are very similar to payday loans and carry interest rates from 50 to 500 percent. Some have hidden administrative fees. If a preparer makes a mistake in calculating your refund, borrowers may have to pay fines and fees, too.
In most cases, tax refund anticipation loans give consumers their refund no more than a few days faster than the IRS, which can deposit refunds in the bank in as few as 10 days.
The IRS recently issued warnings about online schemes that can steal taxpayers’ identities. Scam emails may say that there’s an issue with a refund, that the taxpayer is being audited or that there’s a delay in processing the tax return. Links in the emails usually go to a scammer’s website, which asks victims to enter Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information. The site may automatically install viruses or other malicious software on victims’ computers.
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, and it won’t request personal or financial information or inform you of an audit that way. The IRS says taxpayers should suspect identity fraud if they receive a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed for them or if the letter states that you received wages from an employer you don’t know. Someone may have obtained your Social Security number and used it to file a return in an attempt to get your tax refund before you do.
If you decide to hire a tax preparer, the BBB advises that you:
For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2013, consumers turned to BBB 131 million times for Business Reviews on more than 6.5 million businesses, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Mexico and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.
Paula Fleming is VP of Communications & Marketing for Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT. Find Paula on Google+.