The beginning of a new year also marks the beginning of tax season. Before you hire someone to prepare your taxes, take a look at these tips from the Better Business Bureau.
• Ask for referrals. Find out who your friends, family and colleagues use for their taxes. Then check the company’s BBB Business Profiles at www.bbb.org. This is a great way to check out any business. It provides a company rating A+ to F based on 16 factors, including how long they’ve been in business and how they respond to complaints. Check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for CPAs, the state bar associations for attorneys and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.
• Check credentials. Is the preparer a 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 might need to contact your preparer after the tax season is over. Will he or she be available? Will the return be filed electronically? Any paid preparer who prepares and files for more than 10 clients must do so electronically unless a paper return is requested.
• Know the cost. Does the fee cover changes to your return? Will it increase if you have a complicated return? Will the preparer represent you in case of an audit? Make sure any refund due is sent directly to you or deposited into an account in your name.
• Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable tax preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask multiple questions to determine your total income and qualifications for expenses, deductions, etc.
• Review the return before signing it. Never sign a blank return. Make sure you receive a copy of the return for your own records. Also, make sure the paid preparer signs the return.
For more consumer tips, go to www.bbb.org or call 1-800-388-2222.
Mindy Eaton, director of communications and marketing for the Better Business Bureau’s regional office, can be reached at email@example.com.