Tax Tip: Choosing the Right Tax Preparer

The government doesn't regulate tax preparers, but sniffs out illegitimate ones.

ByRICHARD DAVIES and ANDREW EVANS
February 20, 2015, 3:18 AM
PHOTO: Tax Tip: Choosing the Right Tax Preparer
Tax Tip: Choosing the Right Tax Preparer
Getty Images

— -- More than half of all taxpayers hand over personal information and documents to a professional to file their return, according to the Internal Revenue Service. If you're one of those taxpayers, it's important to chose your preparer wisely.

"Anybody can claim they're a tax preparer," says Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

So how do you find the right one?

"It's so difficult. The government does not regulate tax preparers," McCormally says.

However, preparers do have to register with the IRS to get a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) in order to file your return, so check to make sure they have one.

The IRS also recommends avoiding preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund, or those who say they can get larger refunds than others.

Relying on word of mouth and credentials can also be helpful when choosing a preparer, McCormally adds.

"A lot of people go to an H&R Block or a Jackson Hewitt, and some of those people are terrific, and some not that good. A lot of it depends on the luck of the draw when you go into an office," says McCormally. "Now, if you've used somebody in the past whom you like, that's the person to go to."

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