Every year many taxpayers file their own tax returns to comply with federal and state tax codes. However, others use paid preparers, including accountants, to file their returns for them. The Internal Revenue Service allows you to designate someone else to complete and discuss your return, although this can lead to trouble if your accountant doesn't file or isn't available for discussion.
According to the IRS, all taxpayers are responsible for the information on their own tax returns. This holds true whether you hire a paid preparer, use a personal or corporate accountant, use tax software, or file your taxes yourself. This means that if your accountant fails to file your return and is unreachable, you are still responsible for submitting a tax return on time. Penalties for filing late or not at all include fines and interest on your back taxes.
The first thing you should do if you can't reach your accountant is to contact his employer. An accountant's firm manager or customer service representative may be able to provide more up-to-date contact information or determine the reason behind the delay in filing your taxes. If your accountant is unable to proceed with your taxes, the firm can appoint another accountant or get your tax documents back to you so that you can find someone else to complete your taxes. If your taxes are past due, you should contact the IRS and explain the situation.
If you feel that your accountant's neglect of your tax return or disappearance are intentional, you may be a victim of fraud. Accountants who defraud customers are in violation of federal and state laws, although the lack of a tax filing may be your more immediate concern. The IRS offers options to taxpayers who are victims of fraud, but the agency reviews fraud on a case-by-case basis. Contact the IRS, along with your local police department, as soon as possible to report fraud and protect your identity and financial information.
Tips and Avoidance
The best way to avoid problems with an accountant is to choose one with independent references or a position at a legitimate accounting firm. Even if you choose an accountant with a strong reputation, always keep copies of each tax document you submit. This will allow you to file your own taxes if your accountant fails to do so. Act early in the tax season to allow yourself extra time, and ask for a receipt or proof of delivery when your accountant claims to have filed your taxes.