Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, we won’t comment on the former. (Perhaps one of Ashworth’s Nutrition, Diet & Health experts can take that one on.) However, we can comment on taxes. Specifically, how to go about getting some tax help right now during tax season.
If you’re thinking about hiring someone to prepare your tax return, do your homework. Especially since you are legally responsible for what’s on your own tax return, even if your tax preparation is done by someone else. That’s why it’s important to choose the right professional. Most are honest and will provide excellent service.
Here are seven tax tips from the IRS when choosing a tax preparer:
- Check the person’s qualifications. Ask if the tax preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number — even if they already have one — before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011.
- Check on the tax preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.
- Find out about their service fees. Avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
- Will the tax preparer be accessible? Make sure you will be able to contact the preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April 18th due date, in case any further tax help or questions arise.
- Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable tax preparation experts will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
- Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
- Review the entire return before signing it. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it. A paid tax preparer must also sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law Also, be sure the preparer gives you a copy of the return. Again, even though the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. So you may want to double-check the math yourself with a tax calculator.
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