Last Updated on February 14, 2019 4:40 pm
Tax season is here, and you may be considering hiring a tax preparer to help you file your taxes. Before you do, follow these tips to help ensure you’re working with a qualified, legitimate professional – not a scammer.
- Verify that your preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) – without one, they can’t prepare a tax return for a paying client. You can also call the NCDOJ’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM and check with your local Better Business Bureau to see whether the preparer has any previous complaints against them.
- Check their credentials. Search through the IRS for preparers who currently have professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who have an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.
- Research the tax preparer’s history. Scammers will often open up a business and claim to be a tax preparer just in time for filing season. Make sure the preparer you’re working with has a credible history.
- Avoid tax preparers who are getting paid based on a percentage of your refund, who claim they can get you a larger refund than other tax preparers would be able to, or who want you to pay extra for a guarantee in case of an error on your return.
- Get estimates and compare costs and services from several tax preparers before you hire one.
- Before you submit your return, review it carefully to make sure your preparer hasn’t claimed a credit you’re not actually qualified for.
- Do not let your tax preparer direct your refund into their bank account. Your refund should go directly to you.
- Never sign a blank tax return. If you’re working with a paid preparer, they need to sign the tax return as well and including their PTIN.
If you have questions about something a tax preparer tells you about your taxes, check it out. You can contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or the NC Department of Revenue at 1-877-252-3052. You can also make a complaint about a tax return preparer online with the IRS, or with the North Carolina Department of Justice at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or at ncdoj.gov/complaint.
If you make $66,000 or less, you can use the IRS’ free tax preparation software. People who earn less than $55,000 or who have disabilities or limited English-speaking skills can also have an IRS-certified volunteer help you prepare your own return. You can find one of these volunteers by using the free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tool.