Tax Time: Mistakes cost you, not your preparer - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Tax Time: Mistakes cost you, not your preparer

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TEXAS. - The IRS says more than 60 percent of Americans pay someone to do their taxes, but many taxpayers know nothing about the preparers they choose.

That's a disadvantage if something goes wrong because mistakes will cost you, not them.

"The IRS really doesn't care. They're going to come to you as the taxpayer. You have the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of your return," says accountant Don Jordan.

Next year, the IRS will require preparers of individual tax returns to register with the government and pass a test to prove their competence, but in the meantime, according to Jordan, you should always check a preparers qualifications.

"If they're not a CPA, if they're not an enrolled agent, if they're not an attorney, I would ask a few questions to get a level of confidence," said Jordan.

The IRS suggests you check the Better Business Bureau for any disciplinary actions or questionable history and avoid those preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund.

"The main thing is ask questions. If you get an uncomfortable feeling, you should go somewhere else," says Jordan.


More Information:

From the Better Business Bureau:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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