IRS Offers Tips in Choosing a Tax Return Preparer This Tax Season

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MOUNTAINSIDE –  The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare their tax returns.  Taxpayers are responsible for the information on their tax returns even if prepared by someone else.

“Reputable tax return preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions, and tax credits,” said IRS spokesperson Gregg Semanick.  “Most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients.”

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“In New Jersey, about 65 percent of all filers use a paid tax professional in preparing their federal tax returns,” said Semanick.

The IRS offers the following tips for taxpayers contemplating using a tax return preparer:

Check the preparer’s qualifications: Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.  New IRS regulations require all paid tax return preparers including attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011.

Check on the preparer’s history: Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.

Find out about service fees: Check on fees prior to securing a tax return preparer’s services.  Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of a refund or those who claim they can obtain a larger refund than other preparers.

Make sure the tax preparer is accessible: A taxpayer should make sure that the tax preparer can be contacted after the return has been filed, even after the April 18 due date, in case questions arise.

Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare a tax return: Most reputable preparers will request to see records and receipts and will ask multiple questions to determine total income and qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.

Never sign a blank return: Avoid tax preparers that ask a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form.

Review the entire return before signing it: Before signing a tax return, review the information and ask questions.  A taxpayer should understand the information on the return and be comfortable with the accuracy of the tax return before signing it.

Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes PTIN: A paid preparer must sign the return and include the PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, a taxpayer is responsible for the accuracy of every item on the return.  The preparer must also provide a copy of the return.

Taxpayers can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 3949-A, Information Referral or by sending a letter to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888.  Download Form 3949-A from http://www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


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