That dreaded deadline is fast approaching. Even to sophisticated taxpayers, regulations are not only complex, but can change too fast to keep up. Online services may be cheap, but sometimes miss potential deductions and nuances; our accountant has been well worth his fee to this middle-class household.
If you haven’t chosen a tax preparer by now, you’ll need to act fast — but don’t let the rush get in the way of good judgment. There are many reputable CPAs and services around, but the feds warn of refund scams and return-related fraud.
Consider these tips from the IRS:
• Be skeptical of those who promise larger refunds than competitors.
• Avoid those who base fees on a percentage of the refund.
• Use a reputable tax professional who signs your tax return and provides you with a copy.
• Consider whether this preparer will be around to answer questions years after the return is filed (you could be audited).
• Review the return before you sign, and ask questions about what you don’t understand.
• No matter who prepares your return, you, the taxpayer, are legally responsible for what’s on it. Never sign a blank or incomplete form.
• Investigate credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents (who pass a federal test) can represent taxpayers before the IRS.
• Choose one affiliated with a professional organization which offers continuing education and resources, and holds members to a code of ethics.
• Ask for references.
Reputable preparers want to see your receipts and ask questions to determine qualifications for expenses, deductions, etc. to avoid penalties, interest or additional taxes down the road.
For more information, forms, and tips see IRS.gov.
Sholeh Patrick, J.D. is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.