IR-2021-46, February 25, 2021
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to choose a tax return preparer with care. Even though the vast majority of tax return preparers provide honest, quality service, some cause great harm through fraud, identity theft and other scams every year.
People value good tax return preparers for helping them through a complicated tax situation or for being available when they don't have time to prepare their own tax return. Paid tax return preparers completed more than half of the tax returns submitted to the IRS in tax-year 2018.
It's very important to select the right tax professional. After all, people trust them with their most sensitive personal and financial information. No matter who prepares it, the accuracy of a tax return is ultimately the responsibility of the taxpayer. The IRS protects taxpayers by assessing significant civil penalties against dishonest return preparers and working with the Justice Department to end scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.
The Choosing a Tax Professional page on IRS.gov has information about tax return preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers by type of credential or qualification.
By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing most federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on the return. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.
Well-intentioned taxpayers can be deceived by preparers who don't understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren't entitled to claim. Fraudulent preparers often do this to increase their fee. Here are more tips to consider:
It is advisable to start searching for a tax return preparer as soon possible. This allows for more time to do research and get recommendations. Remember, taxpayers must pay any taxes due by April 15, even if an extension is necessary.
Be sure to check with the tax return preparer to see if there are any restrictions or additions to the services they provide because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some may offer phone or virtual assistance options in addition to their usual in-person services. Customers may be asked, for example, to mail documents to them or scan and e-mail documents through a secure internet connection.
Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. They can use these resources to get help when it's needed, at home, at work or on the go.
This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide, a resource to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals).