Tax season is here, and you may be considering hiring a tax preparer to help you file your taxes. Before you do, the North Carolina Department of Justice has some tips to help ensure you’re working with a qualified, legitimate professional, not a scammer.
Verify that your preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) – without one, they can’t prepare a tax return for a paying client. You can also call the NCDOJ’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM and check with your local Better Business Bureau to see whether the preparer has any previous complaints against them.
Check their credentials. Search through the IRS for preparers who currently have professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who have an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion. Research the tax preparer’s history. Scammers will often open up a business and claim to be a tax preparer just in time for filing season. Make sure the preparer you’re working with has a credible history.
Avoid tax preparers who are getting paid based on a percentage of your refund, who claim they can get you a larger refund than other tax preparers would be able to, or who want you to pay extra for a guarantee in case of an error on your return. Get estimates and compare costs and services from several tax preparers before you hire one.
Before you submit your return, review it carefully to make sure your preparer hasn’t claimed a credit you’re not actually qualified for. Do not let your tax preparer direct your refund into their bank account. Your refund should go directly to you. Never sign a blank tax return. If you’re working with a paid preparer, they need to sign the tax return as well and including their PTIN.
If you have questions about something a tax preparer tells you about your taxes, check it out. You can contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or the NC Department of Revenue at 1-877-252-3052. You can also make a complaint about a tax return preparer online with the IRS, or with the North Carolina Department of Justice at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or at ncdoj.gov/complaint.
If you make $66,000 or less, you can use the IRS’ free tax preparation software. People who earn less than $55,000 or who have disabilities or limited English-speaking skills can also have an IRS-certified volunteer help you prepare your own return. You can find one of these volunteers by using the free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tool.