Tax season is upon us again and Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is encouraging taxpayers to do some legwork before selecting tax preparation help. Doing research ahead of time may help you avoid getting hit with fines and fees if your return is not correct or is filed late.
The IRS recently issued warnings about online schemes that attempt to steal taxpayers’ identities. Consumers are receiving scam e-mails that say there is an issue with a refund or that there is a delay in processing the tax return. Links in the e-mails usually go to a phony web site 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. BBB reminds consumers that the IRS will not request personal or financial information by e-mail.
BBB offers the following advice on how to find a trustworthy tax preparer:
• Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on whom they use and check out the service’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org.
• Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or certified E-file provider. Be sure to find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
• Make sure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. A PTIN must be obtained by all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing or assisting in the preparation of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund or other tax form submitted to the IRS.
• Do not fall for the promise of big refunds. Be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.
• Remember that a paid preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. They should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return. Finally, the preparer must give you a copy of your return. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return.
• Do not sign a blank return. Avoid any tax preparer who requires that you sign a blank return.
• Read the contract carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it is going to cost for the service and how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time-consuming than expected.
For additional information, visit bbb.org.