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The following is BBB general information and is not intended as a report on any specific company.
If you prefer to have your return prepared by someone else, the BBB offers some tips to help you choose a qualified professional:
*Avoid the last minute rush. Call your tax preparer and discuss the forms you will need, and then schedule an appointment before the height of tax season. Planning ahead will allow time to locate any necessary missing or additional information and ensure you file in a timely fashion.
*Organize your paperwork. Prior to your meeting categorize all documents and other information you think may apply to your tax situation. If the preparer has not done your taxes before, bring the last three years' returns with you as well.
*Review your needs. Simpler returns can be taken to a national tax service, but if your return is complicated, consider an enrolled agent (EA), CPA or tax attorney.
*Make sure your tax preparer has the expertise you need at a price you can afford. Call around for pricing, and ask about training and experience.
*Find out if the individual or firm will be available should any questions arise regarding your return. You may also wish to know if the preparer has ever represented taxpayers in an audit or has been denied permission to do so.
*Find out how long the process will take. Some returns may be ready at the end of the interview session; other preparers may ask you to come in at a later date to pick them up.
Keep in mind that tax evasion scams, including fraudulent tax return preparation, cost tax payers billions of dollars each year. Dishonest tax preparers commit fraud in a number of ways, including claims of inflated business or personal expenses, false deductions, disallowed credits or exemptions, and income figure manipulation.
Be wary of tax preparers who:
*Claim they can obtain larger refunds than competitors.
*Base fees on a percentage of the refund amount. Fees should be based on the complexity of the return, not on the size of the refund.
*Offer immediate payment with no explanations. These payments are actually loans from the preparer, and fraudulent companies pad their bottom line by giving cash up front at a high interest rate while presenting it as an instant refund from the federal and/or state government. If you accept immediate payment from a preparer, be sure you understand the terms and fees.
*Refuse to sign the tax return or provide a copy for the taxpayer's records. Always get a copy of your return as proof of what transpired, as well as a receipt for services rendered.
Remember: you are ultimately responsible for the information filed on your tax return, whether or not you prepared it. Never sign a blank return, and always review the information carefully before you commit your signature. Retain a copy of your return and maintain good records throughout the year.
For more information, contact:
Better Business Bureau
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
Social Security Administration (SSA)
National Association of Tax Professionals
This information is general in nature and is not intended as a Business Review on any company, product, or service.