Tax season is here and it is the time of the year when many tax payers choose a preparer to help them file their returns.

Pendrive and tax form

Choosing a tax preparer must be done very carefully, as tax preparers are responsible for a lot of personal and sensitive information.

Here are some tips direct  from the IRS that you can follow when choosing your preparer to make sure that you’ve chosen someone you can trust!

  1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.
  2. Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For Enrolled Agents, go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov or check the directory.
  3. Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information.
  4. Ask to E-File. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit.
  5. Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form.
  6. Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return.
  7. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
  8. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without the taxpayer’s consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.

 

In addition to following the above steps to carefully choose a tax preparer, tax payers should be aware of other steps they can take to protect their identity. Anyone with an online presence should keep these things in mind to protect their tax return in 2018

  • Avoid using unprotected Wi-Fi.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails that pose as a trusted source.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique.
  • Sign up for account alerts.
  • Encrypt sensitive data and protect it with a password.

For more information visit www.irs.gov/identity-theft  or contact AARP’s Fraud Watch Network; and if you have an experience or story please share it on our Scam Tracking Map .