How to hire a trustworthy tax professional

Posted at 11:28 AM, Feb 04, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance provided a checklist to help taxpayers choose a trustworthy tax preparer.

During this tax season, it's important to know who to trust when it comes to your personal finances. Though the majority of paid tax professionals are honest and competent, the Tax Department wants to prepare you for those who are unethical.

New York State provides the following tips to help protect you and your confidential information from the wrong hands:

1. Shop around
Friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers may be able to refer you to an ethical and competent tax preparer. Meet with all the tax professionals you’re considering hiring. It’s important to know if they’ve worked with others in similar tax situations, how long they’ve been preparing returns, and how you’ll communicate moving forward. You can also read reviews from previous clients, if available. This will help you get a sense of the quality of the preparer’s work, their timeliness, and customer service.

2. Check credentials
New York State registered preparers must meet continuing education requirements and minimum qualifications. Attorneys, certified public accountants, and IRS enrolled agents aren’t required to register, but do have other professional requirements. Ask to see the preparer’s registration certificate or proof that he or she isn’t required to register. You can also verify that a tax preparer [tax.ny.gov] is registered online.

3. Ask about fees
Ask to see a list of fees up front. The fees should be directly related to the services provided and not the refund amount. Tax preparers in New York City are required to display their fees, as well as their credentials, in plain sight. Also, by law, preparers cannot charge to e-file in New York State.

4. Protect your refund
A refund should never be deposited into a preparer's bank account. The fastest and safest way to receive your refund is to have it directly deposited into your bank account.

5. Look for red flags
Never hire a preparer who won’t sign your return, and never sign a return before it’s fully prepared. You and your preparer must both sign your completed return. Preparers must include their federal preparer tax identification number (PTIN) or Social Security number on the return, and either their New York State registration number or exclusion code. Beware of preparers who say they will prepare your return for a percentage of the refund. If a tax preparer won’t provide information about fees, this should tip you off that something isn’t right. Never hire a preparer who promises a large refund without reviewing your information, and steer clear of those who suggest you claim a bogus deduction or credit.

In the end, you’re responsible for the information on your return and can be held accountable if it’s inaccurate or fraudulent. For additional information, visit Tips for hiring a tax preparer [tax.ny.gov]. If you suspect that a tax preparer is engaged in illegal or improper conduct, please file a complaint with the NYS Tax Department:
• on our website [tax.ny.gov], or
• by phone at 518-530-HELP.

The Tax Department will review your complaint promptly and, if appropriate, take corrective action that may include sanctions.