BUFFALO — This year, taxpayers must file their income tax forms before the April 18 deadline. For many people, major life changes, business ownership, or simply a lack of knowledge about the ever-changing tax laws make finding a trustworthy tax preparer a good idea. However, not all tax preparers have the same level of experience and training.
Here are Better Business Bureau’s tips for finding someone you can trust with your finances and sensitive personal information.
Review the tax preparer’s credentials. EAs, CPAs, and tax attorneys are all qualified to represent their clients to the IRS on all matters. Other preparers can help you with forms and basic matters, but cannot represent you in case of an audit. Don’t be afraid to ask about these or other qualifications before you hire someone.
Be wary of spectacular promises. If a tax preparer promises you larger refunds than the competition, this is a red flag. Many such tax preparers base their fees on the amount of your return and may likely use shady tax preparation tactics. In addition, it’s wise to avoid tax preparers who offer “refund anticipation loans” as you’ll probably lose a large percentage of your return to commission fees.
Get referrals from friends and family. One of the best ways to find a trustworthy tax preparer is to ask your loved ones for recommendations. Once you have a few options, check BBB.org, paying careful attention to other consumers’ reviews or complaint details. This will give you a clear view of what you can expect.
Think about availability. If the IRS finds errors in your tax forms or decides to perform an audit, will your tax preparer be available to help you with the details? Find out whether you can contact the tax preparer all year long or only during tax season.
Ask about fees ahead of time. Before you agree to any services, read contracts carefully and understand how much the tax preparer charges for their services. Ask about extra fees for e-filing state, federal, and local returns, as well as fees for any unexpected complications.
If things don’t add up, find someone else. If a tax preparer can’t verify their credentials, has a record of bad reviews from previous clients, or their business practices don’t seem convincing, don’t do business with them. Keep in mind that if you hire them, this individual will handle your sensitive personal information – information you need to keep safe from corrupt or fraudulent tax preparers.