Attorney General Patrick Morrisey this week advises consumers to verify the legitimacy of tax preparers when seeking assistance during tax filing season. The Internal Revenue Service estimates more than half of taxpayers hire a professional when it is time to file their return.
“Filing taxes can be a convoluted and confusing process,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “It’s very common for consumers to hire professionals to help them, but it is critical to verify that your expert is legit. You don’t want to hand your personal information to just anyone.”
Legitimate tax preparers will ask for records and receipts. Additionally, they will never ask a client to sign a blank tax return. If they suggest as much, it should raise an immediate red flag.
Attorney General Morrisey offers these tips to help taxpayers verify a tax preparer’s legitimacy regarding what to look for and how not to fall prey to a scammer.
• Make sure the tax preparer has a valid IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Such documentation is required to prepare federal tax returns.
• Research tax preparers online and/or seek a friend’s recommendation to ensure a good review.
• Make sure the tax preparer offers e-file. Anyone who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must do so electronically.
• Make sure the tax preparer will be available after filing the return should any questions arise about the filed tax return.
Consumers also should make sure their tax preparer signs and includes their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Federal law requires paid tax preparers to take both steps.
If you believe you may be the victim of tax-related identity theft, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808. For information, including ways you can help protect yourself against this kind of identity theft, visit www.irs.gov/identitytheft or www.ftc.com/identitytheft.