Tax Tip Tuesday! Choosing your tax preparer

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Tax day is now less than two months away! And while it may seem a long way off, it's never too early to start getting ready.

On Tuesday's Good Morning Arizona, CPA Bob Hockensmith gave us some tax advice, along with some tips about how to choose your your tax preparer.

If you pay someone to prepare your federal income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that person wisely.

Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:

1. Check the preparer's qualifications. All paid tax preparers are required to have a "Preparer Tax Identification Number," or PTIN. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask the preparer if he or she attends continuing education classes. You can actually see if a tax preparer is licensed with each State Board of Accountancy, or if he or she is qualified with the IRS. The IRS has a link to verify preparers at http://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf

2. Check the preparer's history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For certified public accountants, check with the state board of accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar association. For enrolled agents, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment.

3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund, or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. 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.

4. Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically.

5. Make sure the preparer is available. Make sure you'll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return, even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.

6. Provide records and receipts. 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 use 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.

7. Never sign a blank return. Don't use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.

8. 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. Remember, you are still legally responsible for what is on it.

9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.  Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).