Don't let tax season catch you off guard. Below are a few simple steps you can do to help you get prepared for your meeting with a legally qualified tax preparer.
Verify Your Tax Preparer belongs to one of the following groups who can legally charge a fee to prepare your tax returns:
Ask to see your tax preparer's current Credentials
Know your consumer rights
Print out Smart Questions to Ask Your Tax Preparer and conduct an interview with your preparer before agreeing to work with him or her
Gather all your tax documents
For more helpful information, check out CTEC's You Tube Video
Before selecting a tax professional, ask to see proof that he or she is legally qualified to prepare tax returns for a fee. Qualified tax professionals should always be able to show you his or her current certificate, enrollment or an active license. The following list outlines the ways you can verify if your tax preparer belongs to one of the four groups of legal tax professionals.
CTEC Registered Tax Preparers (CRTPs)
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs)
Enrolled Agents (EAs)
As you begin your search for a qualified tax preparer, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the activities that some illegal tax preparers may engage in.
You should beware of the tax preparer who:
Claims to be a CTEC Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP) but is not listed on the CTEC Web site
Fails to give you his or her name, address, phone number and bond information
Refuses to sign your tax return(s)
Asks you to sign a blank tax form
Refuses to give you a copy of any documents you have signed
Promises a refund prior to looking at your tax information
Charges a fee based on a percentage of the refund
An estimated 5,000 people are illegally preparing taxes in California, leaving many consumers with unexpected tax bills and penalties. By conducting a fifteen-minute interview with your prospective tax preparer, you may be able to protect yourself from an illegal tax preparer. The following list of questions is aimed at helping you gather the information you need to select an appropriate tax professional.
Are you a CTEC Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP)?
If not, which of the three other legally qualified tax professionals are you affiliated with?
May I see your credentials?
Do you take continuing education courses?
As a CRTP, do you maintain a tax preparer surety bond as required by law?
How will you determine a fee to prepare my tax returns? Can you provide me with a list of associated costs for your various services?
Will you sign my tax returns?
When can I expect to receive my completed tax returns back from you?
Can I reach you year-round?
How long have you been in business?
Do you have a privacy statement I can file with my records?
Will you store my tax information? If so, how will it be stored and for how long?
Are you outsourcing your tax preparation service?