As the April 15th income tax return filing deadline approaches, Americans are collecting their papers and looking for help. While some consumers will use software or complete their own returns, most people will get assistance from a professional tax preparer.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to be careful when selecting tax preparation help. The wrong preparer could cause a lot of headaches and result in fines and extra fees to get a poorly-done job corrected.
Unfortunately, every year BBB receives thousands of complaints from consumers about problems with tax preparers. Complainants often state that they made errors in their return, resulting in fines. In some cases, the documents were never even sent to the IRS.
Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of information on their tax return, whether they prepare the document or hire someone else to do so.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers the following guidance for consumers who are looking for help with their income tax returns:
-Avoid tax preparers who claim they can get you bigger refunds than the competition, or larger ones than what you've gotten in previous years.
-Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of a refund.
-Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of your tax return in the months or even years after the return has been filed.
-The IRS criminal investigation department reminds you to never sign blank tax forms.
-Before you accept the offer, consider the cost of “instant refunds” or “refund anticipation loans” that may be offered by tax preparers or the sellers of tax preparation software.
The IRS will usually direct deposit your tax refund to your bank account within a few days after your return is filed. This can turn your “instant refund” into a very high cost short-term loan.
Your BBB also offers another checklist for taxpayers who will be preparing their return themselves:
Use Free File - Let Free File do the hard work for you with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. If you made $58,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software that is offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If your income was higher or you are comfortable preparing your own tax return, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. You also may be eligible for free face-to-face help at an IRS office or volunteer site. Give yourself time to weigh all the different options and find the one that best suits your needs.
Try IRS e-file - After 21 years, IRS e-file has become the safe, easy and most common way to file a tax return. According to the IRS, 70 percent of taxpayers used IRS e-file. Starting in 2011, many tax preparers will be required to use e-file and will explain your filing options to you. This is your chance to give it a try. IRS e-file is approaching 1 billion returns processed safely and securely. If you owe taxes, you have payment options to file immediately and pay by the tax deadline. Best of all, combine e-file with direct deposit and you get your refund in as few as 10 days.
Consider Direct Deposit - If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you’ll receive it faster than waiting for a paper check.
Always check the IRS website for any questions - The official IRS website is a great place to find everything you’ll need to file your tax return: forms, publications, tips, answers to frequently asked questions and updates on tax law changes.
Remember this number: 17 - Check out IRS Publication 17. It’s a comprehensive collection of information for taxpayers highlighting everything you’ll need to know when filing your return.
Review! Review! Review! - Don’t rush. Be sure to double-check all the Social Security Numbers and math calculations on your return, as these are the most common errors made by taxpayers.
Don’t panic - If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is here to help. Try http://www.irs.gov or call toll-free at 800-829-1040.
For more advice on finding professionals you can trust, visit http://www.bbb.org or call 203-269-2700.
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Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.