Once again, the tax season is upon us. Many taxpayers are scrambling to get the correct paperwork together, figure out which boxes to check off on various forms, and wait with anticipation for the letter stating that their tax returns have been approved or declined. Tax preparers offer services to relieve some of the stress by calculating, filling out, and signing tax incomes on the behalf of taxpayers. Most are helpful and well-worth the investment, but some are on the hunt for uninformed taxpayers who are quick to trust. Not only are “Ghost” or fake tax preparers out for your private information, but they also wish to make as much money off of your tax returns with little care about submitting false information, leaving you to deal with the IRS and a world of headaches.
There are a number of red flags to look out for when hunting for a tax preparer.
Red Flag 1: Avoids showing you credentials.
Many phony tax preparers will have little to no professional credentials. Some will even go out of their way to create fake documents from just as fake institutes to persuade tax consumers into believing their credibility. Do not fall into this trap, and do a bit of researching before giving a stranger your private information.
Red Flag 2: Does not have a PTIN.
A preparer without a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, is not legally allowed to do your taxes. If you come across a tax preparer who refuses to give you his or her PTIN or claims that he or she does not need one, chances are the person is a fake.
Red Flag 3: Fee is based on a percentage of your return.
Another warning sign is a tax preparer’s fees fluctuating based on the size of your return. This gives phony tax preparers the incentive to mark down false information, thus wrongly increasing your return for a larger paycheck. Always ask a tax preparer’s about payment options before you agree to let him or her do your taxes.
Red Flag 4: Boasts a larger size refund
If your tax preparer tells you that they can get you a much larger refund that anyone else, this can be a red flag that your tax preparer is not on the up and up. Typically, every preparer is dealing with the same information in terms of income and expenses and there should not be much fluctuation with regard to the size of your potential refund.
One of the best ways to prevent becoming a victim to this type of scam is by searching the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on irs.gov. If a tax preparer’s name appears, they are legitimate. However, if his or her name is not listed, it may be safer to find someone else. Furthermore, never sign a blank return and double check that your preparer has signed all necessary documents as you are ultimately held accountable.
Justin Lavelle is the Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified, a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses, property records, and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy, and affordable. The company helps people discover, understand, and use public data in their everyday lives. https://www.beenverified.com