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A Perfect Match:

In Accounting & Finances, Business, Taxes on January 16, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

What to Look for in a Tax Return Preparer

It’s already that special time of the year, folks: people are getting ready for tax returns. You might be tempted to forget about filing because you plan on having a professional do it for you. But how do you know that you’ll find the right person for the job? After all, as the taxpayer, you are legally responsible for everything written on your tax return – even if you don’t prepare it. Here are some tips to keep in mind so that you can ensure your paperwork ends up in good hands. 
 
First and foremost, the preparer MUST have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) – otherwise he won’t be able to sign your return and enter this number, which is now required for all paid preparers. Once you have his official digits, you’ll want to dig a little deeper. Steer clear of any individual who has had a particularly unpleasant relationship with the Better Business Bureau or a bad record with the State Boards of Accountancy for certified public accountants, State Bar Associations for attorneys, etc.  You get the drift?!
 
You’re obviously going to be charged for the preparer’s services, but how you pay is crucial. Avoid anyone who bases their fee on a percentage of your refund.  Or take your business elsewhere if the preparer tells you that your refund will go into his bank account first, and he will then write you a check, after deducting his fees. Your tax refund is your money and should be deposited directly into an account in your name.  You should pay your tax preparer separately for his services. 
 
How you file is also important. The IRS is pushing for e-file because it’s faster and safer, and your preparer should at least make this option available to you.  And if you choose not to e-file, then be sure to read my last week’s blog, Hello E-File!, as a reference to understand your responsibility in this process.
 
The tax preparer needs to be easily accessible to you, both by telephone and in-person. You don’t want to show up a few days before your returns are due and find a “Gone Fishing” sign on the door. You also don’t want your preparer to mysteriously leave town (with all of your personal information) after the return has been filed, so make sure you will be able to contact him for future questions.
 
Once you chose a preparer, you still need to keep your eyes open for any signs of bad business practices. A good preparer will ask you tons of questions to double-check your financial information, and should also request all of the necessary records and receipts. Think about it: how can someone accurately file your return if they don’t have the required documents, or a full understanding of your financial detail? 
 
Returns are like checks – never sign a blank one. That means you need to review the completed return in its entirety before signing it. Ask your preparer any questions you may have, because if something is incorrect, you’re the one who will have to deal with it later. So, ask questions, and do no stop until you get satisfactory answers from your preparer.  Finally, once the preparer has signed your return and included his PTIN, don’t walk out of the office until you have a hard copy in hand. Tax preparers are supposed to make things easier for taxpayers. Don’t let one get off easy if he tries to swindle you: report abusive tax preparers with Form 14157, available on www.irs.gov.
 
On the Money
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions

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