With tax season just getting underway, some consumers rush to file taxes as soon as their employers provide a W-2.
While you may get your refund fast that way, you could be missing important deductions or leave yourself in a position where you need to file an amended return. Better Business Bureau advises consumers to research tax preparers and wait until they have all of their relevant documents, such as 1099s.
BBB business profiles include valuable information that can help consumers find trustworthy tax preparers, such as the length of time a firm has been in business, a rating from A+ to F and a record of any complaints and how they were resolved. Consumers also should ask preparers for their qualifications or certifications. In addition, ask them how long they’ve been preparing taxes and whether they have been subject to professional discipline related to tax preparation.
Once your tax return is filed, pay attention to any mail you receive from the Internal Revenue Service, but be skeptical of emails or phone calls. The IRS does not initiate contact with consumers by phone or email. If the IRS informs you that a return already has been filed or that you received wages from an employer you don’t know, you could be a victim of tax fraud. If this happens, you may need to file your return on paper and visit an IRS office to resolve the problem.
Other BBB tips on hiring a tax preparer include:
• Check credentials. Is the preparer a certified public accountant, a tax lawyer or an enrolled agent? Will the preparer sign your return and provide you with a copy? Does the preparer belong to a professional organization that requires members to adhere to a code of ethics?
• Be wary of promises that you’ll get a refund. Until the preparer knows your situation, there is no way to know whether you’ll get a refund or how big it will be.
• Check accessibility. You may need to contact your preparer after tax season is over. Will he be available?
• Read the contract. Know what preparing your return will cost, what the fee covers and whether the cost changes if you have a complicated return. Will the preparer represent you in case of an audit?
• Check your return. Before you sign the return, read it over to check for mistakes. Ask the preparer to explain anything you don’t understand. Don’t forget to sign it.
Consumers may obtain a BBB business profile on an individual business at bbb.org or by calling 417-862-4222.
Stephanie Garland is director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield. Among the counties served by BBB Springfield are Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Lawrence and Barton. Emails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.