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Tax season can come faster than we expected, prompting people to look for professional help when filing their tax returns. 

Choose Your Help Wisely

The IRS urges people to choose paid tax preparers wisely.

“In the end, the tax payer is legally responsible for the content of the return, so it’s very important to choose your tax preparer carefully," says expert Deborah Pettway, Owner of Pettway Bookkeeping & Tax Service, LLC. To avoid a potential tax nightmare, Pettway shares 5 tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax return preparer. 

  1. Is the tax preparer qualified? Some of the credentials you need to check for include Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN, and Affiliations with professional organizations and Continuing Education. You can also check the Better Business Bureau. 

  2. Service fees are one of the most important elements of tax preparation for the tax payer. You should inquire about fees before signing an agreement for tax preparation. In most cases, exact fees cannot be quoted until the income tax return is complete, however, you should be able to obtain a range of fees at the initial appointment with your tax preparer. Fees should not be based on a percentage of your income and you should avoid preparers who want to deposit part of your refund into the preparers bank account.

  3. Having a tax preparer that is reachable can be very important. You may need to contact the preparer after the return has been filed, or several months down the road. Nothing is more frustrating when you’re unable to reach the preparer to obtain additional information or copies of your return, or to ask questions.

  4. Signing a blank return is a no-no. If a tax preparer asks you to do this, kindly exit their office and search for another tax preparer. It is your responsibility as the tax payer to thoroughly review your tax return before signing and having it e-filed. Make sure that all your questions and concerns are answered before signing the return.

  5. Tax forms must be signed and dated to be accepted by the IRS. The tax preparer is also required to sign and include their tax identification number on the return. This is confirmation that the preparer is legal and has completed the necessary requirements as a professional tax preparer. Never leave the tax preparers office without a copy of your return. Some preparers will offer to send your return electronically; however, if you prefer a hard copy, the preparer is obligated to provide a copy to you for your records.

Deborah Pettway is the Owner of Pettway Bookkeeping & Tax Service, LLC located in Mobile, Alabama. Deborah has worked in the field of finance and accounting with over 20 years’ experience in Corporate America before starting her own business. She’s a speaker and trainer, and holds several leadership positions in local and national organizations and within her Church. She provides an array of services to her clients including QuickBooks training, small business setup, tax planning, debt free living, income tax preparation, payroll and notary service, to name a few. Learn more by visiting www.deborahpettway.com.

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