More than 80 percent of American households use a tax preparer or tax software to help them prepare and file their taxes.

Beginning in 2011 all paid tax preparers are required to register with the Internal Revenue Service. Beginning in 2012, all tax preparers who are not attorneys or Certified Public Accountants must take 16 to 24 hours of continuing education on an annual basis and pass a competency exam. Certified Public Accountants licensed in Florida are required to take 40 hours of continuing education on an annual basis.

It is important to understand you are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return even when prepared by another individual or firm. For most taxpayers this involves relying on their preparer’s tax knowledge, preparation expertise and audit substantiation experience.

When contemplating a paid preparer, check with the Better Business Bureau, the state bar association for attorneys, the state Department of Professional Regulation and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility. Enquire if any complaints have been filed and substantiated.

Ask other professionals you utilize such as insurance agents, securities brokers, attorneys, realtors for service providers who have historically provided quality services to their clients.

Ask potential tax preparers for credentials and references. Check out their website to determine if their service practice areas are compatible with your needs and expectations.

Enquire if they are available to assist you in the event of your return is challenged by any taxing authority.

Be Cautious of Tax Preparers Who:

  • Claim they can obtain Larger Refunds than others
  • Base their Fees on a Percentage of the Refund
  • Ask you to Sign a Blank Return or Form
  • Maintain Seasonal Offices
  • Are Not Licensed and do not Display Their Credentials
  • Do not belong to Reputable Professional Organizations
  • Do not provide you with a Copy of Your Return
  • Have not Signed Your Return before you sign it