According to the BBB, this year, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds for returns that contain an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit until February 15th, to ensure the claims are accurate. Taxpayers who are changing tax software products this filing season will need their adjusted gross income from their 2015 tax return in order to file electronically.
Here are some BBB tips before choosing a tax preparer:
First, ask around. Get referrals from friends and family and research free BBB Business Reports on tax preparers and tax preparation services at bbb.org. Consider accessibility, in case the IRS finds errors or in case of an audit, you need to be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
Be wary of advertising for services that promise larger refunds than the competition.
Look for credentials. Your tax preparer should be certified. Click here for more information regarding tax preparer credentials and qualifications.
Obtain his/her Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A valid 2017 PTIN must be procured by all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund, or other tax form submitted to the IRS.
Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history with your state's Board of Accountancy (for CPA's), the State Bar Association (for attorneys) or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for enrolled agents.
Read the contract carefully. That way, you can understand issues such as how much it will cost for the service, how that cost will be affected if your tax preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected, and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit. Remember that a paid preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. The preparer must give you a copy of your tax return.
Don't forget about Free File. If your adjusted gross income is $64,000 or less, Free File offers free Federal tax preparation and e-filing. Visit irs.gov/freefile to learn more.
BBB also warns people about tax refund fraud, a form of identity theft where someone else fraudulently files a tax return in your name. This is a serious issue, one that is difficult to detect and can delay the tax refund that you're due. One of the best ways to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud is to file your tax return as soon as possible. If you suspect a problem, contact your local police department.
Click here to learn about a new scam targeting tax professionals.
Report scams and fraud to the BBB’s Scam Tracker.