Tax season is long gone, or is it? Every year, Better Business Bureaus across the US see an increase in complaints about tax preparers. In Mississippi the same pattern holds true. Two Jackson area consumers contacted BBB serving Mississippi to help locate their tax preparer, CPA’s of America, LLC, who helped file their taxes this year. The reason why is because the IRS has contacted them about problems with their returns. “After weeks of calling and leaving messages, these victims contacted BBB” says John O’Hara CEO of BBB serving Mississippi “When our investigator tried to visit the business location, the company was gone”. “BBB mail was returned and a security guard at the location stated that the business had been gone for over two months” says O’Hara. “The security guard stated that other people were looking for them as well”.
Every year, Better Business Bureau processes thousands of complaints from consumers regarding tax preparation. Next year when you decide to hire a tax preparer, your BBB provides the following tips for choosing a trustworthy professional:
- Ask around. Request referrals from trusted family and friends and check out the company's BBB Business Review at bbb.org. Search our Accredited Business Directory for BBB accredited tax return preparers.
- Look for credentials. Your tax preparer should be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent, and/or a certified E-file provider. Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that requires continuing education and has a code of ethics. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers.
- Make sure they are properly registered. In the U.S., all paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. If the person you want to hire can't provide you with theirs, walk away.
- Check for accessibility. Some tax preparation companies are only open for a few months every year and it can be difficult to track the preparer down if you have issues. Ensure that you will be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return, as you may need to contact them if questions come up about your tax return at a later date.
- 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. The cost of the service should be determined by the complexity of the return. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account; never have your refund deposited into a preparer's bank account.
- Read the contract carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand 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.
- Never sign a blank tax return. It should always be a red flag if a tax preparer is asking you to sign a blank tax form. 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. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of your return. Before signing your tax return, review it thoroughly and ask questions if anything is unclear.
For additional tips and information you can trust, visit bbb.org and check out your Better Business Bureau's website on tax tips and the IRS.