Tips on selecting a Tax Return Preparer

February 15, 2011
If you decide to hire a tax preparer, the BBB advises that you:

•    Ask for referrals from friends, but check the preparer out with the BBB before you hire anyone at or by calling 504-581-6222.

•    Check credentials. Is the preparer a certified public accountant (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? Don’t use a company just because they are the cheapest.

•    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. Don’t work with a person that promises you a certain amount of refund.

•    Check accessibility. You may need to contact your preparer after tax season is over. Will he or she be available? Make sure the person preparing the return will be around in three years. Even though you are held responsible for any penalties/interest if the return is filed incorrectly, it would be helpful to have the preparer around as a resource.

•    Read the contract. Know what the service will cost, what it covers and whether the cost changes if you have a complicated return. Will the preparer represent you in case of an audit?

•    Check your return. Before you sign the return, read it over to check for mistakes. Ask the preparer to explain anything you don’t understand. Don’t use a person who won’t sign the tax return.

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