BBB: Use caution when searching for a tax professional - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

BBB: Use caution when searching for a tax professional

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This year's tax deadline is April 17th. This year's tax deadline is April 17th.

As workers receive their W-2 forms, many will immediately begin the process of preparing their taxes. For some, that will include searching for a qualified tax preparer.

According to the Better Business Bureau, it is important to remember that when it comes to finding someone to help make the burden of tax preparation a little easier, one size does not fit all. In fact, the consequences of filing your taxes the wrong way could result in hefty fines, or worse -- identity theft.

The Internal Revenue Service says that more than 155 million individual returns are expected to be filed this year. Before hiring  anyone to do you taxes, keep in mind that you should:

  • GET REFERRALS. Start by asking friends and family for recommendations, then check BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org. Look beyond the letter grade; complaint details and Customer Reviews will tell you about others’ experiences.
  • CHECK REGISTRATIONS. A tax preparer must obtain a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) from the IRS. Never let someone work on your taxes unless they have this number. Do not be afraid to ask about this or other qualifications; a capable professional does not mind questions.
  • LOOK FOR CREDENTIALS. Anyone with a PTIN can prepare tax forms for you, but some tax preparers have more training and qualifications than others. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants (CPAs) and attorneys have unlimited rights to represent their clients to the IRS on all matters. Other preparers can help you with forms and simple IRS matters, but are limited otherwise, and they cannot help you if they did not prepare your form. Learn more about tax preparer credentials at IRS.gov.
  • WATCH INFLATED PROMISES. Be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund. Also, be wary of “refund anticipation loans,” which can take a hefty chunk of your refund in commission. Refunds are processed quickly these days, so it might be a better bet to just wait for the real thing rather than pay a premium to get it now.

For those who may want to use something other than a professional tax preparer, the BBB suggests searching for free tax programs available to those who meet an income requirement. Also, if you plan to file yourself, use tax software or an app that provides both excellent data security and good customer service. Some of the top names in tax prep software are BBB Accredited Businesses.

One other note, this year's tax filing deadline is April 17th, giving you two extra days to complete your returns.

Got a question for the BBB? Contact Regional Director Kelly Trevino at ktrevino@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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