Use caution choosing your tax preparer

The IRS is reminding everyone to use caution when choosing a tax return preparer. Most preparers provide quality service. However, some may cause harm through fraud, identity theft, and other scams.

Choosing a tax professional carefully is essential. You are responsible for all the information on your income tax return, regardless of who prepares it. Review your return before signing it. Ask questions if something appears inaccurate.

When hiring an individual or firm to prepare a tax return, you need to understand important questions to ask. Check their credentials and background. If you have a tax problem, attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents are licensed to represent you before the IRS in any situation.  

Paid preparers are required to sign any tax return they prepare and include their PTIN.  A ghost preparer is someone who doesn't sign returns they prepared. A ghost preparer may attempt to make a quick profit by charging fees based on the amount of your refund. They may file a fraudulent return with a larger refund to make a larger tax preparation fee. You should avoid "ghost" tax preparers.

When choosing your tax preparer:

Use a preparer who's available year-round. If questions come up, you may need to be able to find your preparer after tax season is over.

Check the Better Business Bureau for information about the tax preparer.

Avoid preparers who determine their fees on a percentage of the refund.

Don't use a preparer who e-files a tax return using your pay stub instead of a Form W-2.

Never use a preparer who asks you to sign a blank or incomplete return. You're responsible for filing a correct return.

Avoid preparers who deposit all or part of the refund into their account.

Be wary of preparers who claim they can get larger refunds than their competitors. However, good preparers may find missed deductions or credits that other preparers miss. Getting a second opinion could provide significant tax savings.

You can report preparer misconduct to the IRS using Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a preparer filed or changed your tax return without your consent, you should file Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct.

You can check on disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. Information can be found about CPAs on the State Board of Accountancy's website.  Information can be found about enrolled agents at Verify the Status of an Enrolled Agent.

In addition to answering readers’ questions, I also provide free reviews for readers concerned about deductions or missed deductions.

David Zubler is a tax accountant and Enrolled Agent in East Tennessee, providing tax strategies and representing clients before the IRS and has over 25 years of tax experience. He is the author of six tax books and has shared tax advice on national TV. He is the founder and president of Your Tax Care. The company provides business and tax education, including David’s one-minute tax tip radio recordings at David can be reached at (865) 363-3019 or contacted by email at