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End of the Year Tips: Start Looking for a Tax Preparer

Tax season begins on January 19, 2016. Filing your tax return early in the season can help you to avoid falling victim to identity theft. It also means getting your refund sooner. If you enlist help in filing your return, it is important to choose a tax preparer carefully. The tips below will help you to choose a professional and trustworthy return preparer.

Use IRS Directory of Return Preparers

To find a professional and legitimate return preparer in your area, use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers available on the IRS website – IRS.gov. The directory is searchable and has a comprehensive list of tax professionals with credentials and select qualifications.

Tax Professionals Who Can Prepare a Return

The categories of tax professionals below are legally permitted to prepare tax returns for compensation.

Category

PTIN

Tax Compliance Check

Background Check

IRS Test

Continuing Education

Practice Rights

Enrolled Agents*

Yes

Yes

Proposals Pending

Yes (Special Enrollment Exam)

72 hours every 3 years

Unlimited

CPAs**

Yes

Yes

Proposals Pending

No

Varies

Unlimited

Attorneys**

Yes

Yes

Proposals Pending

No

Varies

Unlimited

Supervised Preparers

Yes

Yes

Proposals Pending

No

No

Limited

Non-1040 Preparers

Yes

Yes

Proposals Pending

No

No

Limited

Source: IRS

Check the PTIN

The IRS requires every return preparer to have a Personal Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The return preparer must include his or her PTIN on every return they handle.

Do a Background Check

Make sure to research your preparer’s years of service, customer complaints, office address, number of staff, and contact information. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are valuable resources to conduct research.

Make a Complaint

If your tax return and/or refund was impacted by a fraudulent return preparer, you may complete Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit and Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer, and mail it to the IRS where you mail Form 1040. You may mail supporting documents with the forms as well. If you received a letter or notice from the IRS regarding your return and/or refund, you must also send them a copy of the notice or letter along with Form 14157-A, Form 14157 and supporting documents.

If your tax return and/or refund was not impacted misconduct, you may simply mail Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer with supporting documents to the IRS. You can download these forms from the IRS website or call 800-829-3676.