(A Message from the Better Business Bureau)
CHICAGO, IL Â – Every year the BBB receives thousands of inquiries about tax preparers, and unfortunately complaints from consumers. Many Americans will get assistance from a professional tax preparer or tax software when filing taxes this year. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) encourages taxpayers to use caution when selecting tax preparation help.
In the past twelve months, the BBB received 6,948 inquiries regarding Tax Return Preparation services; this is over twice as many inquiries as last year. Commonly, complainants state that the tax preparer made errors in their return which resulted in fines and fees.
“Even though the tax preparer completes the return, it’s the taxpayer who is ultimately responsible for the return’s accuracy and whether or not it’s filed on time,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “The fines, fees and hassles can add up if you choose an unreliable tax preparer and that’s why it’s important to do your research.”
The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to find a trustworthy tax preparer:
- Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on who they use and check the BBB Reliability Report on tax preparation services at www.bbb.org
- Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org 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 Enrollment for enrolled agents.
- Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney or an enrolled agent. All three can represent you before the IRS in all matters, including an audit. Also, find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that holds its members to a code of ethics.
- Don’t fall for the promise of a big refund. Be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition, and avoid any tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.
- Think about accessibility. Many tax preparation services only set up shop for the months leading up to April 15. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, you might need to be able to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
- Read the contract carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it is going to cost for the service, how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit. Â
- Read the contract and know what you’re paying for. Understand how much the service costs, how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected, and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit and how much that will cost.
- Remember that it’s illegal for tax preparers to encourage you to falsify deductions, exemptions or income in order to pay less tax or obtain tax credits. If they ask you to sign a blank or incomplete form or guarantee that you won’t be audited, go elsewhere.
For more advice on finding professionals you can trust, visit www.bbb.org