Tax Help Microsite Assists Consumers with Tax Questions
Employees have started receiving W-2 forms to begin filing their taxes by the April 18 deadline. Although it can be tempting to hurriedly complete your taxes in hopes of receiving a quick refund, Better Business Bureau urges consumers to be cautious during tax season.
The IRS will begin accepting tax returns beginning on January 23 this year, although many tax software companies will accept tax returns earlier in January and submit them for you to the IRS when their processing systems open. Like previous years, the IRS is emphasizing the ease and security of their online services for taxpayers.
Before you begin the process of filing your taxes, whether on your own or with a preparer, consider these BBB tips:
Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on who they have successfully used to prepare their taxes in the past. Research tax preparers at bbb.org or visit bbbtaxhelp.com for a list of BBB Accredited preparers.
Consider accessibility. Some tax preparation services wind down their operations shortly after the April 18 tax deadline. In case of an audit or any errors, you need to be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
Don’t fall for promises of a big refund. Be wary of any tax preparation services claiming they can get you a bigger refund than their competition. Also avoid any tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider.
Make sure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A PTIN must be obtained by all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing or assisting in the preparation of all, or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund, or other tax form submitted to the IRS.
Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history with your state’s Board of Accountancy (for CPA’s), the State Bar Association (for attorneys), or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for enrolled agents.
Remember that a Paid Preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. They should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of your tax return.
Read the contract carefully. Read contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it will cost for the service, how that cost will be affected if your tax preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected, and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit.
Don’t forget about Free File. If your adjusted gross income is $62,000 or less, Free File offers free Federal tax preparation and e-filing. Visit irs.gov/freefile to learn more.
Shred documents. This includes copies of your tax return and drafts or calculation sheets you no longer need. The IRS recommends that most people keep three years worth of tax returns in case of an audit. Keep hard copies and electronic files in a secure location.
The IRS says taxpayers will receive their tax refunds quicker by using e-file or Free File, with the direct deposit option. They are also urging all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before filing, including Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and Form 1095-A from the Marketplace for those claiming the premium tax credit. To track your refund, consumers can use the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” page.
Consumers can visit bbbtaxhelp.com for more information, resources and a list of trustworthy tax preparers.