Milwaukee, Wis.–Since tax season is underway, the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin reminds consumers about the importance of choosing a reliable tax preparer. According to the IRS, 80 percent of Americans will enlist the help of a tax preparer or tax software when filing their taxes. To avoid penalties and fees, the BBB encourages taxpayers to use caution when selecting tax preparation.
Tax preparation professionals offer a variety of services in addition to completing your returns. They are generally more familiar with tax saving strategies, can help you organize and plan for next year’s taxes, and help you determine if you are required to pay taxes each quarter. Make sure you choose a preparer who offers the services you need.
“Most tax professionals provide quality service,” says Ran Hoth, CEO/president of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin. “Still, we’ve seen cases where businesses have closed suddenly or stopped communication with their clients. It’s important to check out a company’s track record and feel comfortable with the tax preparer that you choose to do business with.”
- Get references and do your research. Get referrals from friends and family on who they use and then check the company’s Business Review at bbb.org to see its BBB rating and BBB Accreditation status. Or, you can request a quote from a reputable BBB Accredited Business at bbb.org.
- Look for credentials. It’s recommended to seek a tax pro who is an Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant or a Tax Attorney. IRS Regulations require all paid tax return preparers to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number. Reputable preparers will request your records and receipts to determine your income and qualifications for expenses and deductions.
- Get a firm estimate in writing. The cost of preparing your return will vary depending on the complexity and completeness of your information.
- Don’t fall for the promise of big refunds. Be wary of any tax preparation service promising larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.
- Tax preparer accessibility. Many tax preparation services only set up shop for the months leading up to tax deadline. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, you may need to be able to contact your tax preparer after the April due date. Make sure you have complete contact information and will be able to contact the tax preparer throughout the year.
- Never sign a blank tax return. Review the entire return and ask questions before signing it. Make sure the preparer includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (“PTIN”), required by law for all paid tax preparers. Also, the preparer must give you a copy of the return. Keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your return.
- Avoid refund anticipation loans. Tax preparers often offer refund anticipation loans to allow you to immediately receive your tax refund; however, this is not an actual refund from the IRS but a short-term loan from the company typically with a high interest rate. To avoid refund anticipation loans, consider filing electronically and requesting your money be direct deposited.