Better Business Bureau warns taxpayers that they are not exempt if their tax returns are prepared improperly by third-party professionals. BBB Serving Western Michigan advises consumers to evade unqualified tax preparers:
Designations: All tax professionals should be able to provide proof of credentials. Turn to the Internal Revenue Service for insight on Enrolled Agents or EAs.
Standings: Check for registration status and disciplinary actions through state and federal agencies. Beware of unanswered or unresolved complaints on bbb.org.
Advertisement Claims: Watch out for those who assert that they can secure higher refunds or deliver faster than other professional preparers.
PTINs: Ask preparers to disclose Preparer Tax Identification Numbers or PTINs before providing services. PTINs should also be enclosed on completed tax returns.
Service Fees: Get costs upfront and in writing. Look for flat fees; avoid rates that fluctuate based on refund percentages.
Electronic Filing: Paid preparers should be able to process returns electronically through IRS e-file, unless clients opt to file paper returns instead. The IRS lists authorized e-file providers.
Documentation: Be wary of those who offer to file without W-2s, records or receipts. Review returns and other tax forms carefully; be skeptical of preparers who try to rush the process, don’t answer questions and encourage clients to sign blank documents. After filing, retain original W-2s and copies of completed tax returns with preparer signatures and PTINs.
Contacts: Ensure preparers will be accessible in case questions or issues arise, even after April. Collect full contact information.
Taxpayers have the right to prepare their own returns. The IRS offers resources at irs.gov/filing.