Questions to Ask a Preparer

When interviewing a prospective tax preparer, ask these questions:

  • Do you have an IRS issued Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)? Anyone with a valid PTIN is authorized to prepare federal tax returns.
  • What are your professional credentials? Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select. See guide to credentials.
  • Are you a member of any professional tax or accounting organizations?
  • How do you keep up with the latest tax law? Do you regularly take continuing education courses? A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters.
  • Do you offer a free initial consultation?
  • How do you determine your fee to prepare my return(s)? Is it a fixed fee or an hourly rate? Is it based on a % of my refund? Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can.
  • Who will prepare my return? Will it be you or someone else in your office?
  • If you have employees who will work on my return, what are their qualifications: do they hold any tax credentials, take continuing education courses and belong to professional tax associations?
  • Do you offer IRS e-file and will my return be submitted to the IRS electronically? Any tax professional who gets paid to prepare and file more than 10 returns generally must file the returns electronically. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return, whether you do it alone or pay someone to prepare and file for you.
  • What records and receipts will you need? 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 rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • When do you require payment?
  • When can I expect to receive my completed tax returns back from you?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you bonded or insured?
  • Do you outsource any tax preparation services?
  • What happens if I get audited?
  • Will you store my tax information? How will it be stored and for how long?
  • Can I contact you after tax season if needed regarding my return? Make sure the preparer will be available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 18 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.


Things to Know

  1. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires all paid tax preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), so make sure your tax preparer has one enters it on your return. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

  2. Beware of and avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can.

  3. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.

  4. Refunds should always come to you, not the tax preparer. 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.

  5. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

  6. 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.

    And remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” If you suspect tax fraud, visit the IRS web page that deals with this issue. It’s also a good idea to check the preparer’s history. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if a preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to www.irs.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status.”