As the tax season approaches, the BBB encourages consumers planning to use a tax preparer to start the selection process now. Doing the research early may help to lessen the chance you may wind up victimized by a less-than-reputable tax preparer. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for everything on your tax return, even if someone else prepared it.
“Consumers looking for trustworthy help filing their taxes should not wait until the last minute – they need to take their time, shop around and find a preparer who is both qualified and has a strong track record of providing customer service,” said Julie Wheeler, BBB president. “Consumers who rush through the process during this tax season may still be dealing with the repercussions next year.”
Most tax professionals are qualified and honest people. The BBB offers these tips for finding a reputable tax preparer:
• Get referrals from satisfied clients.
• Interview the potential preparer. Ask about their training, experience and knowledge of current tax law. Are they a member of a professional organization with continuing education requirements and a code of ethics? Are they willing to guarantee the accuracy of their work and amend the return if there is a mistake?
• How long they have been in business? You’ll want someone who will still be around to answer questions that may arise later on.
• Check the BBB Reliability Report at bbb.org to determine if the preparer is one you can trust.
• Get an estimate for their fee prior to authorizing the work.
Steer clear of tax preparers who sound too good to be true. Beware if they:
• Boast that they can obtain larger refunds than competitors;
• Don’t ask to review your records and receipts or discuss your qualifications for expenses and deductions;
• Base their fee on a percentage of the refund amount, rather than the complexity of the tax return; or
• Pressure you to sign up for immediate payment of your refund. This involves a loan that typically carries a high interest rate.
The IRS advises that tax preparers are acting illegally if they encourage you to claim inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, or excessive exemptions; manipulate your income to obtain fraudulent tax credits; ask you to sign a blank or incomplete form; or guarantee that you will not be audited. Check that your preparer has signed your tax return, and get a copy and a payment receipt for your records.
If you have further questions or would like a BBB Reliability Report on a tax preparer, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA.
BBB Serving Western Virginia
31 West Campbell Ave.
Roanoke, Virginia 24011