Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2023 > Choice in tax preparer requires care

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

Choice in tax preparer requires care

You should have received all of your 2022 tax documentation – including W2 forms – from your employer by now, and perhaps you’re planning to hire a professional tax preparer.
First, consider what type of professional you may need. Tax preparers might be certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents and/or attorneys. An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Enrolled agents, like attorneys and CPAs, are generally unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle and where they can practice.
It is important to thoroughly research the person preparing your taxes, as the preparer will have access to your personal information, including your Social Security number. No matter who prepares your taxes, ultimately you, the taxpayer, are responsible for the accuracy of your return.
The IRS recommends the following steps when selecting a tax preparer:
  1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers. Remember: Any tax preparer should have a Preparer Tax Identification Number.
  2. Check the preparer’s history. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the Supreme Court of Ohio. For enrolled agents, go to the verify enrolled agent status page on or check the directory.  
  3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information until you’ve actually retained that person. 
  4. Ask to e-file.  The quickest way to get your refund is to electronically file your federal tax return and use direct deposit. 
  5. Make sure the preparer is available. Contact your tax preparer as early as possible to make sure he or she has time to file your taxes before this year’s deadline. Be wary of tax preparers offering inexpensive last-minute services.
  6. Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things such as total income, tax deductions and credits. 
  7. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.
  8. Review before signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is unclear. You should feel comfortable with the accuracy of your return before you sign it. You should also make sure that your refund goes directly to you – not to the preparer’s bank account. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return. 
  9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes the PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
  10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Most tax preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a tax preparer filed or changed your tax return without your consent, file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. 
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, contact the Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.