You know that I love you all and would just love to prepare every last one of your 1040s this year. But between my existing clients and that centipede I can’t seem to catch, I’m booked solid through tax day.
Thank heaven the IRS has the following tips for when it comes time to pick a tax preparer:
1. Check the person’s qualifications. Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.New regulations require all paid tax return preparers including attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number — even if they already have one — before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011.
2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents. (You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org — be sure to include the preparer’s name and address.)
3. Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
4. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
5. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
6. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
7. Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
8. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return.The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
Remember: You’re still legally responsible for the content of your tax return, whether you prepare it yourself or hire a paid preparer. So if you think the results of your return seem too good to be true, it behooves you to double and triple check everything before signing off on it.