26 Sep 6 Ways to Verify You Have a Reliable Tax Preparer
If you use a tax preparer to file your tax return for you, you give them a lot of delicate information. They know all about your finances, your marital status, your contact information, and they even have your Social Security number. So wouldn’t you want to verify that the person you’re handing that data to is someone reliable?
Your answer is probably yes, but according to a recent survey, roughly 80% of people who hire a tax preparer never ask about the person’s credentials or qualifications. If you choose to hire a tax preparer in Provo, here are 6 steps you should follow to ensure that the person you work with is reliable and qualified to handle your return.
Ask for Their PTIN
Anyone who is paid to prepare federal tax returns is required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Be sure to ask anyone you hire if you can have their PTIN, and be sure to check it on the IRS’s directory of federal tax return preparers. Note, however, that volunteer tax preparers are not required to have a PTIN, only paid professionals.
Ask for Other Credentials
Getting a PTIN actually isn’t all that difficult, so it’s best if you work with a tax preparer who has other qualifications and credentials. You should only entrust your return to a certified public accountant, enrolled agent, licensed attorney, or someone who has completed the IRS’s Annual Filing Season program. All of these credentials require the individual to study, pass certain exams, and participate in ongoing education courses, which means you can be certain that they are up to date on tax laws and can handle your return appropriately.
If you want to find a tax preparer with specific credentials, you can search the IRS’s directory. This will show you tax preparers in your area that possess both a PTIN and some form of IRS-recognized credential. Volunteer preparers and those with only a PTIN are not listed in the directory.
Examine Their Fees
Flat-rate fees can be eye-catching and quite tempting when you’re looking to save a few bucks on preparing your return. But legitimate tax preparers usually charge by the hour. So, if you find a preparer that is charging based on the size of your return, you should be skeptical. Additionally, if the person is promising they can get you a bigger return than another preparer, this should be a major warning sign for you; legitimate preparers cannot make promises about the size of your return.
Make Sure They e-File
If a paid preparer processes more than 10 returns for their clients, the IRS requires the preparer to file the returns electronically through their e-filing system. So, if your tax preparer does not offer the option to e-file, this is likely a sign that they’re doing as much tax prep as you thought. You’re usually better off working with someone who handles many returns in a single year.
Ensure They’ll Sign the Return
Any paid preparer is required to sign their clients’ returns and provide their PTIN when the return is filed. Make sure that anyone you work with is willing to do both these things. If your preparer gives you a return that they have not signed or that does not have their PTIN, don’t sign. And never sign a blank return—the preparer could put anything on the return after you’ve signed it, including their own bank account information, which would allow them to steal your refund.
Ask If They’ll Have Your Back
When you work with a certified tax preparer that has both a PTIN and an IRS-recognized credential, you’ll have professional support and backing with the IRS if there are any issues regarding audits, payment plans, collection issues, or appeals. So, if you work with a preparer who doesn’t have a PTIN, or who has one but possesses no other professional credentials, you’ll be on your own if the IRS decides to audit you.
Additionally, make sure they’re going to offer you support and assistance after your file is returned. A reliable tax preparer will still answer your calls and provide you with the help you need, regardless of whether or not your tax return has already been filed.
If you’re looking for a tax preparer in Provo, The Accounting Guys offers reliable, professional tax preparation that meets all of these qualifications. Just give us a call and speak to one of our certified tax preparers to learn more about our experience, credentials, and comprehensive tax prep services.