Four Questions to Ask before Hiring a Tax Preparer A paid preparer’s answers should provide confidence that they’re honest and qualified
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The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance today encouraged taxpayers to ask their tax preparer four simple questions before trusting them with their private information. An estimated 70% of New York taxpayers hire a tax professional to complete their personal income tax returns each year.
Before hiring a paid preparer, you should ask:
• Are you registered with the IRS and New York State? New York State registered preparers must meet continuing education requirements and minimum qualifications. Attorneys, certified public accountants, and IRS enrolled agents aren’t required to register, but do have other professional requirements. Ask to see the preparer’s registration certificate or proof that he or she isn’t required to register. You can also verify that a tax preparer is registered online.
• How much will it cost? Ask to see a list of fees. The fees should be directly related to the services provided and not the refund amount. Also, by law, preparers cannot charge to e-file in NYS.
• How will I receive my refund? A refund should never be deposited into a preparer's bank account. The fastest and safest way to receive your refund is to have it directly deposited into your bank account.
• Will you sign the return? A completed tax return must be signed by both the taxpayer and the preparer. Preparers must also include their federal preparer tax identification number (PTIN) or social security number, and either their NYS registration number or exclusion code. You should never hire a preparer who won’t sign your return, and never sign a return before it’s fully prepared.
“Refusal to sign the return is a red flag that the return may be wrong,” said Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion. “Even if a preparer completes and files your return, you, the taxpayer are ultimately responsible for its accuracy and will be held liable for any fraudulent claims.”
New York is one of only four states to regulate the tax preparer industry. While most tax preparers are honest and provide excellent service to their clients, taxpayers must remain vigilant to protect themselves from individuals who file fraudulent returns or misuse personal information.
To help taxpayers find ethical tax preparers, the Tax Department has a checklist available at its Tips for hiring a tax preparer webpage. Use the checklist as a guideline when visiting or calling prospective tax professionals.
File a complaint
If you're aware of a tax preparer who has engaged in illegal or improper conduct, you can file a tax preparer complaint online or contact the NYS Tax Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility at (518) 530-HELP (option #2). The information is kept confidential. The Tax Department takes this type of illegal activity seriously, promptly reviews each complaint, and takes corrective action when appropriate.
For more information