IRS warning: Look for these potential tax preparation red flags

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– As they begin to accept and process tax returns at the end of the week, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division is warning people to make sure they are filing proper returns and choosing legitimate tax preparers or accountants with their sensitive information.

“When choosing a tax preparer, it’s probably one of the most important financial decisions you will make,” stated Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “You should definitely talk to family and friends and ask them for recommendations.”

But if a trusted option isn’t available, there are some basic tips to avoid handing over unnecessary additional money to someone offering to pay your taxes.

Tips when choosing a tax preparer:

  • Look for a preparer who is available year-round in case questions arise after the filing season.
  • Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which is required for paid preparers.
  • Inquire about the preparer’s credentials and check their qualifications.
  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or claim to offer a bigger refund than their competition.
  • Never sign a blank or incomplete return and review it before signing.
  • Refunds should go directly to the taxpayer, not the preparer.

Jackson says genuine mistakes can be made by tax preparers, and those can be worked out, but what people need to most look out for are the schemers looking to steal their information and potential tax returns.

“Those people, if it comes across our radar, we’ll check it, have a conversation with them, and they’ll acknowledge their mistake, and they’ll get with the taxpayer, and they’ll fix it and move on. But we all know whenever there’s an opportunity, an opportunist will take advantage of that,” Jackson added.