Who NOT To Hire To Do Your Taxes

Tax time is coming and you’ll need to decide if you’ll do your own return or hire a preparer. For tips on doing it yourself, see Should You Do Your Own Tax Return? If you hire a preparer, you certainly don’t want to get investigated or audited because your preparer is in trouble.
The IRS is taking steps to better regulate the tax return preparation field, ostensibly to weed out what IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman calls “unscrupulous preparers.” The IRS started with having return preparers register and obtain their own Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). So far about 740,000 have been issued.
Over 60% of PTIN holders are not attorneys, CPAs, or enrolled agents. CPAs, attorneys, enrolled agents and others who prepare returns must register with the IRS. Paid preparers must pass a competency exam. Preparers who are attorneys, CPAs or enrolled agents (already enrolled to practice before the IRS) are exempt from the test.
A recommendation from someone you trust is one way to select a preparer. But however you do it, you don’t want to be caught up in some kind of scheme. Some preparers have gotten in deep trouble for altering returns after they are signed. The IRS actually has a policy on this!
Tax returns altered by a CPA without the client’s knowledge are not valid. That can cause no end of problems. In IRS Program Manager Technical Advice 2011-013 the IRS considered a CPA who had prepared about 700 returns, 450 of them being filed electronically.
This was part of a scheme to illegally get refunds of which the CPA took a share. See What If Your CPA Altered Your Tax Return Without Telling You?
The unwitting clients who got caught up in this had to file new returns.
The vast bulk of return preparers are honest and do their best to comply with the law and to help you. Stay away from the few bad apples.

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