If you pay someone to prepare your tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that preparer wisely. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. So, it is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Most return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when choosing someone else to prepare your return:
1. Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers including attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number — even if they already have one — before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011.
2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.
3. Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
4. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
5. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
6. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
7. Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
8. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return.The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
Points to Keep in Mind When Choosing A Tax Preparer
If you changed your name as a result of a recent marriage or divorce you’ll want to take the necessary steps to ensure the name on your tax return matches the name registered with the Social Security Administration. A mismatch between the name shown on your tax return and the SSA records can cause problems in the processing of your return and may even delay your refund.
Here are five tips from the IRS for recently married or divorced taxpayers who have a name change.
1. If you took your spouse’s last name or if both spouses hyphenate their last names, you may run into complications if you don’t notify the SSA. When newlyweds file a tax return using their new last names, IRS computers can’t match the new name with their Social Security Number.
2. If you were recently divorced and changed back to your previous last name, you’ll also need to notify the SSA of this name change.
3. Informing the SSA of a name change is easy; you’ll just need to file a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card at your local SSA office and provide a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change.
4. Form SS-5 is available on SSA’s website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or at local offices. Your new card will have the same number as your previous card, but will show your new name.
5. If you adopted your spouse’s children after getting married, you’ll want to make sure the children have an SSN. Taxpayers must provide an SSN for each dependent claimed on a tax return. For adopted children without SSNs, the parents can apply for an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number – or ATIN – by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions with the IRS. The ATIN is a temporary number used in place of an SSN on the tax return. Form W-7A is available on the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov, or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).