Many people hire a professional Miami Tax Preparer when it’s time to file their tax return.
If you pay someone to prepare your federal income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that person wisely (i.e. Certified Public Accountant or non-licensed seasonal tax preparer). Even if you don’t prepare your own return, you’re still legally responsible for what is on it. A Miami Accountant cannot walk away from his/her responsibilities and can be fined, jailed or both. A non-licensed tax preparer can simply close up shop, and start under a new name across the street. Either way, you’re still the Go-To-Person the IRS will seek to collect from, even if you did nothing wrong.
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a Miami tax preparer:
This is straight from the IRS website. Immediately followed by what they want to say, but cannot due to a Supreme court ruling striking down an IRS initiative to have all (exempt are Accountant and Attorney’s) tax prepare’s complete a competency exam and licensed. The initiative was applauded by our profession for the public’s own safety. To everyone’s surprise the Supreme Court struck down the mandate after a lawsuit was filed a group of non-licensed preparers. Buyer be aware!
1. Check the tax preparer’s qualifications. All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask the preparer if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes. (A PTIN is not a license or certificate of competency, it’s merely an identification number issued by the IRS to anyone who wants one for the purposes of preparing a tax return).
2. Check the preparer’s history. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For certified public accountants, check with the state board of accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar association. For enrolled agents, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment. (What the IRS fails to state here is, who the heck ever complains to the BBB anymore? There is no government or private agency to has over sight over non-licensed tax preparers. Research online, here is one example among thousands).
3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account. (Another example of why to choose a Miami Tax Preparer whom is either a Accountant or Attorney. We are not allowed by law to charge contingency based fees)
4. Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. IRS has safely processed more than 1.2 billion e-filed tax returns. (And is defenseless against ID fraud, and e-file is the weapon of choice by criminals)
5. Make sure the tax preparer is available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return. (In other words, will he/she be there when they come audit you?)
6. Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form. (No signature, no proof the prepared the return. Some tax preparers even fill in their own bank account numbers and steal your refund).
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 the return before you sign it. ( Use common sense, if you made $20K and paid in zero taxes during the year, an $10K refund should make you run out the door. Don’t be fooled into thinking “oops” they made a mistake and if the IRS catches it, the tax preparer will be on the hook for it. The IRS will come for you with a vengeance).
9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return. (Remember a PTIN is simply an ID and the IRS wants you to be their police dog to insure the PTIN is included so they can track down the tax preparer later in case of fraud, not to protect you. Besides, how are you supposed to know if the number on the form is real or made up? There is no license or certificate issued)
10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can 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 at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
tax preparer. ( I can’t agree more with the IRS on this one)
I wonder what would happen if non-licensed individuals started practicing medicine without a medical degree. Would the Supreme Court decide it was OK for anyone to perform surgery on you, without having been properly educated, trained, certified and subject to both government oversight and peer-to-peer reviews every two years? The answer, I hope would be a resounding 7 to 0 “NO” vote by the Supreme Court. This however is an easy decision that the public can relate to and understand. The law is supposed to be blind to political party politics, and unbiased in it’s interpretation of law. If you’re not immersed on a day to day basis dealing with tax issues at either the local, state of federal level you’re probably unaware of the ugly truth, it’s all about money. The government is broke and statiscally generates more tax dollars from unsuspecting taxpayer’s who hire non-licensed tax practitioners. They will get you coming or going. On the one hand, a substantial number of tax returns prepared by these strip mall shops do no understand tax law, and as such you pay more tax by not taking legitimate deductions. The other extreme is the tax preparer who always comes up with a obscene refund. In the first scenario you leave obey on the table. In the second scenario when the IRS catches up to you, and they will, you will pay some big bucks in penalties and interest.
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. And unfortunately all to often the only time I will ever work with taxpayers unaware of what they are getting themselves into, is when they come see me to bail them out of a mess they’re in. Not all non-licensed tax preparers are the same. There are plenty whom do a fantastic job and truly care about your finances. The government however, could care less and just wants your tax dollars regardless of how it gets them. It’s a new ERA folks.
In my next blog I’ll discuss identity fraud and what it means to you. Additionally, we’ll what the IRS is doing do combat there issue, and surprisingly, whom they are going after to collect. Can you guess?