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Helpful hints for finding a trustworthy tax preparer

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 12:01 p.m. CDT

Need help filing your taxes but want to make sure the tax preparer is legitimate? Do your research! BBB hears about lots of tax scams every year, from ill-trained preparers to companies that file for you without your permission. Although tax preparers must sign off on the paperwork, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for filing the return ... and will be subject to penalties if there are problems.

The Better Business Bureau advises taxpayers to be extra cautious when choosing a tax preparer, since that person or company will have access to lots of personal information. Here are some tips on finding a trustworthy tax preparer:

Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family and check out the service's BBB Business Review at bbb.org.

Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent, and/or a certified E-file provider. Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that requires continuing education and has a code of ethics.

Make sure they are properly registered. In the United States, a tax preparer must obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service.

Do not fall for the promise of big refunds. Be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.

Read the contract carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand how much it is going to cost for the service, and how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected.

Remember that a paid preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. They should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of your return.

For more information on tax filing in the United States, go to the Internal Revenue Service website: www.irs.gov.

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