IRS Offers Advice on How to Choose a Tax Preparer

Post Date: 2/28/14
Last Updated: 2/27/14


Cross References
- FS-2014-5, February 19, 2014

The IRS has updated its website to include advice on how to choose a tax preparer. The following are 10 tips to keep in mind, according to the IRS.

- Check to be sure the preparer has a PTIN. All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask the preparer if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.

- Check the preparer's history. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For Enrolled Agents, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment. (Enrolled Agents are licensed by the IRS and are specifically trained in federal tax planning, preparation, and representation.) For Certified Public Accountants, check with the state board of accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar association. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer's bank account.

- Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. IRS has safely processed more than 1.2 billion e-filed tax returns.

- Make sure the preparer is available. Make sure you'll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return—even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.

- Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They'll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits, and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

- Never sign a blank return. Don't use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.

- Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you're comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

- Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law.The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

- Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Author's Comment: We find it interesting that on February 11, 2014, the IRS lost its appeal in the Loving case where the Circuit Court of Appeals stated the IRS does not have the statutory authority to license and regulate tax preparers or require them to obtain continuing education, then eight days later, the IRS releases this list telling taxpayers to check the license of the tax preparer and whether they attend continuing education classes.
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