Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen warned the public to be on the lookout
for dishonest tax preparers who “set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud,
identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.”
“Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private
financial information that needs to be protected,” Koskinen said. “Most preparers provide
high-quality service, but we run across cases each year where unscrupulous preparers steal
from their clients and misfile their taxes.”
To help ward off scammers seeking to harm taxpayers, the IRS identified a few tips people
can take to make sure their tax preparer is professional, responsible and honest.
- Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Paid tax return
preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on your
filed tax return.
- Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential, belongs to a
professional organization or attends continuing education classes. Enrolled Agents are
among those recommended by the IRS. A number of tax law changes, including the
Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to
be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a
professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the
preparer you select.
- Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return
Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help you find a tax
return preparer with the qualification that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable
and sortable listing of certain preparers registered with the IRS.
- Check the preparer’s history by seeking information from the Better Business Bureau or
email the IRS directly at epp@IRS.gov and ask to verify the status of an enrolled agent.
- Ask your preparer about any service fees. Preparers are not allowed to base fees on a
percentage of their client’s refund. Avoid preparers who boast of “bigger refunds”
than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you – not into your
preparer’s bank account.
- Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who
do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must offer electronic filing.
- Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to
determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a
preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your
- Make sure you can get in touch with your preparer if there are questions about your
tax return. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.
- Understand that non-credentialed tax return preparers cannot always represent clients
before the IRS. Enrolled Agents can represent any client before the IRS in any
- Never sign a blank return and never trust a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank
or incomplete return.
- Review your return before signing. Ask questions about anything you do not understand
and only sign it when you are comfortable with the accuracy of your return.
- If you believe you have encountered an unscrupulous tax preparer, report misconduct
to the IRS.
Remember: taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return, even if it is
prepared by someone else.