ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: vetting your tax-preparer

ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: vetting your tax-preparer

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - My sources at the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) gave me the checklist below to share with you. It will go a long way to make sure your CPA or tax-preparer is qualified to prepare your taxes.

"Conducting research should be your first priority if you decide to have a tax-preparer file your income tax return," said Cynthia Wiel, TDCI's director of consumer protection. "You are responsible for everything on your return, even when someone else prepares it, so be sure to check your preparer's history and qualifications carefully before hiring."

CHECKING PREPARER'S QUALIFICATIONS:

* Make sure the preparer has a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). The number's issued by the IRS and required for all tax-preparers

* Find out if the preparer is associated with any professional organizations (National Association of Accountants, American Institute of CPAs, National Association of Tax Professionals).

* Ask the preparer about his or her education and training.

CHECKING PREPARER'S HISTORY:

* Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer is rated or has any complaints filed against him or her.

* Check with government regulators and/or professional associations to see if any disciplinary actions have been taken against the preparer:

- If the preparer is a CPA, verify his/her Tennessee license at www.verify.tn.gov. In Mississippi or Arkansas, check with your state attorney general's consumer protection division or your state's revenue department.

- If the preparer is an attorney, verify his/her attorney credentials with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. Also, check with your city, county, or state's bar association.

- If the preparer is an enrolled agent, verify his/her status with the IRS Office of Enrollment.

CHARGES AND FEES:

* AVOID PREPARERS WHO BASE THEIR FEES ON THE AMOUNT OF YOUR REFUND. That leaves room for them to fake deductions or figures on your return in order to inflate the estimated refund.

* Get a written estimate of the cost and fees to prepare your return.

Wiel recommended to always get a complete copy of your prepared return. Verify that the preparer signed it and included his/her PTIN. NOTE: avoid any preparer who requests that you sign a blank return or requires your refund to be direct-deposited to a bank account other than your own.

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