Taxpayers can begin filing their taxes on Wednesday, and some people are anxious to file right away so they can get their refunds promptly. The Better Business Bureau urges taxpayers to check tax preparers out before handing over sensitive information.
BBB Business Reviews will tell you whether a preparer has any complaints and indicate how long a company has been in business. Every year, the BBB receives complaints from taxpayers who have problems with their returns and can't get in touch with a preparer that was open just for tax season.
In recent years, the BBB also has heard from consumers who got emails alleging that there was a problem with their return. These emails often are attempts to steal a taxpayer's identity or to load a virus or malware onto the recipient's computer. The Internal Revenue Service does not use email to contact taxpayers about their returns: It uses regular mail. If you receive an email about your taxes, avoid clicking on any links and delete the email. If you've clicked on anything, run a virus scan on your computer.
The BBB has six tips to help you find a trustworthy tax preparer:
- Ask for referrals from friends, but check the preparer out with the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300 before you hire anyone.
- Check credentials. Is the preparer a certified public accountant (CPA), a tax lawyer or an enrolled agent? Will the preparer sign your return and provide you with a copy? Does the preparer belong to a professional organization that requires members to adhere to a code of ethics?
- Be wary of promises. Until the preparer knows your situation, there is no way to know whether you’ll get a refund or how big it will be.
- Check accessibility. You may need to contact your preparer after tax season is over. Will he or she be available?
- Read the contract: Know what the service will cost, what it covers and whether the cost changes if you have a complicated return. Will the preparer represent you in case of an audit?
- Check your return: Before you sign the return, read it over to check for mistakes. Ask the preparer to explain anything you don’t understand. But don’t forget to sign it. The IRS says failure to sign a return is a common reason for delays in processing refunds.
A BBB on filing your taxes is available at http://youtu.be/I0oT3mdwDOg.