A little homework can prevent serious problems with your income tax return. The deadline for filing income tax returns is still months away. Now is a good time to select a tax professional. Better Business Bureau however, cautions that consumers can run into serious problems if they don’t do their research to find a reputable tax preparer.
While most tax professionals are qualified, reliable and honest, it is well worth the time to look for a qualified, dependable and trustworthy service to avoid problems during and after consumers hand over their documents for preparation of 2013 income tax returns.
Tax time can be stressful and choosing to use a tax professional can help. Consumers and businesses need to understand that they are ultimately responsible for everything on a tax return, regardless of who prepared it. Nobody wants to have to deal with income tax return problems because of a mistake made by the preparer.
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:
- Check the preparer’s qualifications. Ask about their training, experience and knowledge of current tax law, and whether they are members of a professional organization with continuing education requirements and a code of ethics.
- Check the preparer’s history. Check with Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org or 519-673-3222) to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For certified public accountants, check with Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario.
- Ask for references. Get referrals from satisfied clients.
- Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.
- Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers CRA e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. CRA has safely processed more than 78 million e-filed and netfiled tax returns.
- Make sure the preparer is available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return - even after the April 30th due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
- Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your T4. This is against CRA e-file rules.
- Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.
- Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
- Ensure the preparer signs. Paid preparers must sign returns and must also give you a copy of the return.
To learn how to file online and other information about Canadian tax law, go to the Canada Revenue Agency website: cra.gc.ca.