IRS Says Do Your Homework When Hiring a Tax Preparer

It’s income tax season and, for some people, the only thing worse than rounding up all their receipts and documentation, is finding out too late that they hired someone to do their taxes who was either unqualified – or simply trying to rip them off.

The I-R-S prosecuted more than 200 people for falsely acting as tax preparers last year, including a couple of Wyomingites. Some victims discovered fake returns had been filed, or their "preparers" had convinced them they didn't need to pay income taxes at all.

Richard Panick with the I-R-S says their investigations division is already hearing about scammers in action again this tax season. While some crimes are difficult for the average citizen to detect, he offers a couple of clues.

Panick adds that only CPA's, enrolled agents and attorneys are allowed to represent taxpayers if their returns are questioned by the IRS. And, if the IRS has a question about your tax return, a notification will arrive in the mail, never through an e-mail.

Panick says you should plan to sit with the preparer if possible as your taxes are being done, and never just sign a blank form and trust them to file it. The agency says about 80% of those who falsely present themselves as tax professionals and are caught filing fraudulent returns end up in prison.

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