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IRS Recommends; Choose Your Tax Preparer Wisely

posted Feb 1, 2016, 10:09 PM by Zaher Fallahi   [ updated Feb 1, 2016, 10:13 PM ]

If someone helps you prepare your tax return, you are not alone. The IRS asks you to choose your tax return preparer wisely – for good reason. Taxpayers are responsible for the information on their income tax return. No matter who prepares your tax return, you are ultimately responsible. Here are ten tips to keep in mind when hiring a tax return preparer:


1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of certain tax return preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:

a) Attorneys.

b) CPAs.

c) Enrolled Agents.

d) Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.

e) Enrolled Actuaries.

f) Annual Filing Season Program participants. 


Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. However, new rules apply to the rights of non-credentialed tax returns preparers to represent their clients before the IRS. Non-credentialed preparers without an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion – may only prepare tax return. The new rules do not allow them to represent clients before the IRS on any return prepared and filed after December 31, 2015. Annual Filing Season Program participants can represent clients in limited situations.  For more, visit and see the 

 Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications page.


2. Check the Preparer’s work History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with your State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with your State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory


3. Ask about Service Fees. Avoid tax preparers who base their fees on a percentage of their client’s tax refund. Also avoid those who boast bigger refunds than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you – not into your tax preparer’s bank account.


4. Ask to E-file Your Return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally are required to e-file clients’ returns. The IRS has safely processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns.


5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available. You may want to contact your tax preparer after this year’s April 18 due date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.


6. Provide Records and Receipts. Good tax preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure your total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Do not use a tax preparer who will e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your current Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.


7. Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.


8. Review Your Return Before Signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of your return before you signing it.


9. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). By law, paid tax preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN. Be sure you obtain and maintain a copy of your return.


10. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients; however, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on at any time.  Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on


Zaher Fallahi, CPA, Esq., assists taxpayers including Americans Living Abroad with their tax preparation, OVDP, FBAR, FATCA, and tax audits.  He has been rated 10 by Avvo  , and named a top tax attorney .  About 1.8% of the US lawyers are also CPAs, and Zaher Fallahi is proudly one of them.  Telephones: (310) 719-1040 (Los Angeles), (714) 546-4272 (Orange County), e-mail