COLUMBUS — The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on January 19 this year, although many tax software companies will accept tax returns earlier in January and submit them to the IRS when processing systems open. Once again, the agency is emphasizing the convenience and security of their online services for taxpayers. Better Business Bureau serving Central Ohio (BBB) offers some helpful tips for the public as tax season kicks into gear.
“If you’re not comfortable preparing your own taxes, be sure to find a qualified professional to assist you,” said Kip Morse, president and CEO of BBB serving Central Ohio. BBB offers the following tips on how to find a trustworthy tax preparer:
• Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on who they use and research free BBB Business Reviews on tax preparers and tax preparation services at bbbtaxhelp.com.
• Consider accessibility. Some tax preparation services wind down their operations shortly after the April 18 tax deadline – which falls three days later than usual this year. In case the IRS finds errors or in case of an audit, you need to be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
• Bigger isn’t always better. Be wary of tax preparation services that promise larger refunds than the competition, and avoid 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.
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.
For more information on finding businesses you can trust, check the BBB on Facebook and Twitter.