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.”