As the April 15th deadline to file taxes approaches, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is warning consumers about fraudulent tax return preparers.
The IRS defines tax return fraud as the preparation and filing of tax returns that contain false or inaccurate information with relation to deductions, claims, credits or exemptions. The IRS recognizes and penalizes fraudulent returns regardless of whether the consumer has knowledge that the information being submitted was false.
Because the taxpayer, not the preparer, is legally responsible for the information listed on their return, consumers should do their research before selecting a qualified tax return preparer.
When choosing a tax return preparer consumers should:
- Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN, and include it on your tax return.
- Check qualifications using the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
- Check the preparer’s history for any complaints or disciplinary actions. Information can be found on resources like the Better Business Bureau, the Board of Public Accountancy (for CPAs), State Bar Association (for lawyers), and IRS.gov (for Enrolled Agents).
- Be cautious of tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
- Make sure the preparer is available. In the event questions come up about your tax return, you may need to contact your preparer after the return is filed. Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation.
When filing a tax return consumers should:
- Provide all appropriate records, such as Form W-2s and proof of health insurance. If your preparer is willing to file your return without proper documentation, walk away. Make sure your preparer returns your documentation to you.
- Never sign a blank return. A tax preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form should raise alarm. Your tax preparer must also sign your return.
- Review your return before signing and ask questions if something is not clear. Obtain a copy of your signed return.
- Never allow their return to be sent to the preparer.
- Keep records for at least three years after filing.
For more tips about choosing a preparer or reporting a report a tax return preparer for improper tax preparation practices, visit IRS.gov.
If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.
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