Well, here we are less than a month before your 2016 federal tax return is due at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office, and you still haven't decided who will prepare your taxes for you.
It doesn't have to be that hard. One way of deciding is to use the www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro website. It contains a list of tips for making that decision. There's even a gateway page with links to national nonprofit tax professional groups, which can help provide additional information for taxpayers seeking the right type of qualified help.
“The filing of a federal income tax return represents one of the biggest financial transactions of the year for many Americans, whether they are getting a refund or paying tax due,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected.”
What to do
Here are some basic tips taxpayers can keep in mind when selecting a tax professional, courtesy of the IRS:
- Select an ethical preparer. Taxpayers entrust some of their most vital personal data with the person preparing their tax return, including income, investments, and Social Security numbers.
- Make sure the preparer signs the return and includes his Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have a valid PTIN.
- Review the tax return and ask questions before signing. You're legally responsible for what’s on your tax return, regardless of whether someone else prepared it.
- Never sign a blank tax return. It’s a clear red flag when a taxpayer is asked to sign a blank tax return. The preparer can put anything she wants on the return -- even her own bank account number for the tax refund.
The IRS has a Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on its website to help you verify credentials and qualifications of tax professionals.
The Directory is a searchable, sortable database with the name, city, state, and zip code of credentialed return preparers as well as those who have completed the requirements for the IRS Annual Filing Season Program.