I have prepared a list of tips to help you chose a tax preparer and to make sure they are doing the job that you hired them for.
- Do check credentials, ask for references, and read online reviews. In the age of the internet, it is increasingly easy to research an individual’s reputation well in advance of meeting them.
- Do not listen to promises about someone being able to “save you thousands in tax” based on a few simple deductions to your return.
- Do review your return in careful detail to ensure that all the information is correct. Remember: if you sign it, you are liable for it.
- Do not ever accept a return prepared by a 3rd party preparer that is not signed by that preparer or does not contain their PTIN number.
- Do not allow your tax preparer to file a return electronically on your behalf that you haven’t seen or signed.
- Do not hire a tax preparer that charges on a contingency based on how much of a refund he/she gets you. This is illegal.
- Do check your IRS account transcript about six months after your return is filed to make sure your account transcript matches the information.
- Do not write your tax preparer a check to him personally or to his “client trust account” to cover the balance of the tax that you owe. Tax payments should only be made to the IRS.
- Do be cautious if you get a large refund or pay less tax than you did last year when your circumstances have not changed much. If you do, ask your tax preparer to explain the extra savings. There are usually only two possible explanations. 1) you made a serious error on a prior year return (in which case, you should amend it), 2) your tax preparer is taking questionable deductions/credits or otherwise shielding income. If the later, do n0t file that return without a second opinion.