PUBLIC SERVICE: As you get your paperwork in order for the IRS this tax filing season, remember: It’s your responsibility for what is on your return.
“Dishonest return preparers use a variety of methods to cheat the government,” warns Jonathan D. Larsen, the special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation unit in Newark, cautioning taxpayers to be careful in selecting a return preparer.
When the IRS detects a fraudulent return, the taxpayer – not the return preparer – must pay the additional taxes and interest and may be subject to penalties, Larsen noted.
Most return preparers “are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients,” Larsen said.
But it pays to be careful, he said.
• Be cautious of tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
• Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.
• Never sign a blank tax return.
• Use a reputable tax professional who signs their tax return and provides you with a copy. In addition, make sure the preparer includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) as required by law.
• Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
• Check the preparer’s credentials. Only attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
• Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
•Ask friends and family members whether they know anyone who has used the tax professional and whether they were satisfied with the service they received.