The IRS is now processing tax returns, and the agency continues to emphasize the convenience and security of their online services for taxpayers. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers some helpful tips for the public as tax season kicks into gear.
“Most of us know the anxiety level only grows the longer we put off doing our personal taxes,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It’s better to be proactive. If you’re not comfortable preparing your own taxes, be sure to find a qualified professional to assist you.”
BBB offers the following tips on how to find a trustworthy tax preparer:
- Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on who they use and research free BBB Business Reviews on tax preparers and tax preparation services at bbb.org.
- Consider accessibility. Some tax preparation services wind down their operations shortly after the April 15 tax deadline. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, you need to be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
- Bigger isn’t always better. Be wary of tax preparation services that promise larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
- Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider.
- Make sure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A PTIN must be obtained by all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund, or other tax form submitted to the IRS.
- Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history with your state’s Board of Accountancy (for CPA’s), the State Bar Association (for attorneys) or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for enrolled agents.
- Remember that a Paid Preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. They should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of your return.
- Read the contract carefully. Read contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it will cost for the service, how that cost will be affected if your tax preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit.
- Don’t forget about Free File. If your adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less, Free File offers free Federal tax preparation and e-filing. Visit irs.gov/freefile to learn more.
The IRS says taxpayers will receive their tax refunds quicker by using e-file or Free File, with the direct deposit option.
BBB is also warning people about tax refund fraud, a form of identity theft where someone else fraudulently files a tax return in your name. This is a rapidly growing problem, one that is difficult to detect and can delay the tax refund you’re due. One of the best ways to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud is to file your tax return as soon as possible.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.