Many individuals and businesses rely on professional tax preparers to complete their yearly tax returns. Although most professionals have the experience and knowledge necessary to be trusted with such an important task, mistakes do happen. When such mistakes lead to the inaccurate claiming of income, too many deductions or the incorrect payment of taxes, it is the taxpayer who is held responsible -- not the tax preparer. This makes it imperative to choose your tax preparer wisely and to review all tax return documents thoroughly prior to submitting them to the IRS.
Selecting a Tax Preparer
When selecting a tax preparer to handle your personal or business tax return, it is crucial that you do your homework and choose a preparer who has the qualifications and experience necessary to be trusted with the task. The IRS advises individuals to avoid tax preparers who use sales tactics that appear too good to be true, like promises of larger refunds or guarantees of results. The fact is, an accurately-prepared tax return will be similar (if not exactly the same), regardless of who handles your tax preparation. You should also be wary of tax preparers who base their fees on your refund amount.
Prepare in Advance
When you meet with your tax preparer, it is in your best interest to come prepared with all of your W-2 forms, 1099 forms, receipts and other income or deduction-related information. The most reputable tax preparers will not simply record deductions based on your word, but will want to see proof in the form of valid receipts. Although these receipts won't be attached to your official tax return, they will become extremely important in the event of an IRS audit.
Review Before Submitting
Once the return has been prepared, go over it very carefully to double check facts and figures. If any information seems incorrect, or you have any questions about how the return was prepared, be sure to speak up and ask questions. When it comes to the accuracy of your tax return, no question is too insignificant.
While tax preparers are not ultimately responsible for errors on your return, some do offer "insurance" against filing errors. These services promise to pay all or a portion of the fees associated with mistakes they made on your tax return.
Consult the IRS
If you have any concerns about the tax preparation service you've chosen, contact the IRS directly or go to the IRS website. They maintain information for consumers about tax scams and about tax preparers with a questionable history. The IRS also recommends that individuals consult their local Better Business Bureau office prior to selecting a tax preparer to determine whether there have been any complaints about the individual or tax preparation service that you should be concerned about.
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