BBB Tips on Tax Preparation

January 22, 2013

It’s a New Year and time to start figuring out your taxes – or at least figuring out who will do your taxes! And with all of the new tax laws, even those who normally wouldn’t use a tax professional might want to use one this year.

According to the IRS, 80 percent of Americans enlist the help of a tax preparer or tax software when filing taxes. Remember: You are legally responsible for your tax return, even if it is prepared by someone else. That is why it is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your tax return.

New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. IRS advises using only tax specialists who sign the returns they prepare and enter their PTINS.

Here are more tips from your BBB:

Ask for referrals. Find out who your friends, family, and colleagues use for their taxes and then check their BBB Business Reviews at This is a great way to check out any business, including accountants and other tax professionals, and provide a company rating A+ to F based on 16 factors, including how long they’ve been in business and how they respond to complains. Check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for CPAs, the state bar associations for attorneys, and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.

Check credentials. Is the preparer a CPA, a tax lawyer, or an enrolled agent? Will the preparer sign your return and provide you with a copy? Does the preparer belong to a professional organization that requires members to adhere to a code of ethics?

Be wary of promises. Until the preparer knows your situation, there is no way to know whether you’ll get a refund or how big it will be.

Check accessibility. You may need to contact your preparer after the tax season is over. Will he or she be available? Will the return be filed electronically? Any paid preparer who prepares and files for more than 10 clients must do so electronically unless a paper return is requested.

Service Fees. Avoid a preparer who bases their fee on a percentage of your refund.

Know what the service will cost. Does the fee cover changes to your return? Will it increase if you have a complicated return? Will the preparer represent you in case of an audit? Make sure any refund due is sent directly to you or deposited into an account in your name.

Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return.

Most reputable tax preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask multiple questions to determine your total income and qualifications for expenses, deductions, etc.

Review the return before signing it. Never sign a blank return. Make sure you receive a copy of the return for your own records. And make sure the paid preparer signs the return.

Start With Trust. For more consumer tips and information, visit or call 1-800-388-2222.