IRS Recommendations on Choosing A Tax Preparer

If you decide to have a tax preparer file your income tax return, it is important to choose that person carefully. You may be eligible to use a volunteer tax return preparer through a program such as the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). However, if you decide to use a paid tax preparer, it is important that you find a qualified tax professional and remember that you are responsible for everything on your return even when it is prepared by someone else.

While most tax return preparers are professional and honest, taxpayers can use the following tips to choose a preparer who will offer the best service for their tax preparation needs.

  • Plan ahead – Choose a preparer you will be able to contact after the return is filed and one who will be responsive to your needs.
  • Get references – Ask questions and get references from clients who have used the tax professional before. Were they satisfied with the service received?
  • Research – Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state’s board of accountancy for Certified Public Accountants (CPA) or the state’s bar association for attorneys. You can contact these organizations by looking in your local telephone directory or on the Internet.
  • Determine if the preparer’s qualifications meet your needs – Is the preparer an Enrolled Agent (EA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Attorney? Only EAs, CPAs and attorneys can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection actions and appeals. Other return preparers may represent taxpayers only in audits regarding a return they signed as a preparer.
  • Ask about tax preparation fees – Try to obtain a clear estimate, preferably in writing, for the preparation and filing services.
  • Understand Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) – RALs come with expensive fees and if you e-file your tax return with the IRS, you can get your full refund directly from the IRS in as few as 10 days – without having to pay any loan fees.
  • Obtain a signed copy of your return – It’s key to obtain a signed copy of your tax return from your preparer to protect your tax refund and guard against tax return fraud.
Make sure your preparer fully explains every form you are asked to sign. In addition, ask your preparer about the use and disclosure of your personal tax return information.