As tax-filing season moves into high gear, many taxpayers realize they will need professional assistance to complete their 2017 tax returns. In IR-2018-41 and FS-2018-5, the IRS offered tips on selecting a paid tax preparer.
Last year, taxpayers filed 149 million individual tax returns. Paid tax preparers completed 83 million of the total 149 million returns.
How should you select a qualified tax preparer? The Service offers several specific tips.
- Trustworthy - Your tax preparer should have a good reputation. You are trusting him or her with sensitive information, including your income, investments and Social Security Number. You may want to use a search engine to gather background information on the preparer's credentials.
- Your Tax Return - Even though a tax preparer completes your return, you are still responsible. Please carefully review the return and ask questions about the various entries.
- Signature - Both you and your tax preparer need to sign your return. The tax preparer also must include his or her Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
- Blank Return - Do not sign your return until all of the entries have been completed. A reputable tax preparer will not ask you to sign a blank return.
Tax return preparers have either limited or unlimited representation rights with the IRS. Tax preparers with limited rights may represent you only if they have prepared your tax return. Preparers with unlimited rights may represent any taxpayer.
Unlimited representation is permitted for licensed attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents. These professionals complete a bar exam (attorneys), the Uniform CPA Exam (CPAs) or a Special Enrollment Exam (enrolled agents). They also must fulfill continuing education requirements.
You can research tax preparers on www.IRS.gov/chooseataxpro
. Taxpayers can look up PTIN holders through the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. You may search by name, zip code or type of credential. Although the IRS provides this list of tax preparers, it does not endorse any specific preparer.