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How To Choose a Qualified Tax Preparer

The choosing of a tax preparer is important. Orange County tax attorneys see many clients whose tax problems are attributable directly to preparers who were not qualified for the work they did. Every taxpayer is responsible for information and claims made on their tax return even if they have the return prepared by someone else.

Most tax return preparers are honest and professional. But just to make sure you are choosing wisely, here are some tips -right from the IRS - in selecting a tax preparer:

  1. Verify the preparer's qualifications. Every paid tax preparer has to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number - even if they already have one - before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011. Membership in professional organizations is another indicator of qualifications. Ask preparers you are considering if they are part of any professional organizations that have continuing education and ethical standards. 
  2. Know their fees up front. If the preparer bases their fee on a percentage of your refund, that is a bad sign. Anyone who guarantees a bigger refund than other preparers is also to be avoided.
  3. Investigate the preparer's history. You can find out if a preparer has had any disciplinary action against them by checking with the state bar association for attorneys, the state board of accountancy for CPAs, and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents. The Better Business Bureau is another resource to check on complaints.
  4. Be sure to produce all records and receipts needed for your return. Qualified preparers will want to see all of your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to accurately determine your income and deductions. If a preparer does not want all of this information, something is wrong.
  5. Be certain the preparer will be available to you. You may need to contact the preparer even after the return is filed. Make sure you can.
  6. Examine the entire tax return. Be sure you review everything on your tax return before you sign it. Ask your preparer to explain anything you don't understand.
  7. Don't ever sign a blank return. Assume that any preparer who wants you to sign a blank return has dishonest intentions.
  8. The preparer must sign the return and include their ID number. All paid preparers are required by law to sign the returns they prepare and include their PTIN. You must receive a copy of the return. Even with the preparer's signature, the taxpayer is responsible for all of the content of the return.

Source: "Points to Keep in Mind When Choosing A Tax Preparer" 1/10/2011

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