The law requires employers to mail out W-2 forms no later than January 31. Being said, pretty soon, everyone will need to choose a tax preparer and file their taxes. Do you know what criteria your tax professional should have? Are there certain red flags? Find out before making your selection.
Choosing a Tax Professional
While the expertise of tax professionals varies, they all must have an IRS issued preparer tax identification number (PTIN). If they want to prepare your return for compensation, make sure your preparer enters their PTIN on the return filed with the IRS. They may omit the number on your take-home copy.
Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers
To help you choose a tax preparer, the IRS has a public directory containing a list of tax professionals. The database is searchable and sortable by name, city, state, and more. It’ll help you narrow down choices to find a preparer that’s in your area.
Tips to find the best tax preparer near you
1. As discussed above, start by asking if they have a PTIN.
2. Consider a preparer with extra credentials; for example, a certified public accountant, a licensed attorney, or an enrolled agent.
3. Compare fees between at least two choices.
4. Ask if the preparer will represent you in the event of an audit.
5. Confirm the tax preparer’s turnaround time. Do they complete your return during your session, or do you need to come back?
How to spot a fraudulent tax preparer
Be aware of fraudulent tax preparers. They typically offer services for cheap and exaggerate their ability to give you the best return. Here are the red flags you should watch out for:
– They ask you to sign a blank or partially filled-out tax return.
– They fail to verify your W-2 or other receipts. Any tax preparer worth their salt will want to see proof of your earnings.
– Your preparation fee is based on a percentage of your refund. This can lead to an inflation of your deduction.
– The preparer asks you to pay him or her directly for penalties owed. Payments should be made to the IRS, not the preparer.
Get ready to choose a tax preparer
The filing deadline for your 2019 tax return is April 15, 2020. With the help of the right tax professional, it should be pretty straightforward. After you choose a tax preparer, use this easy tax checklist to gather paperwork.