* Do not use a tax preparer who guarantees you a bigger refund, or who guarantees a refund period. No tax preparer anywhere can guarantee you a refund if your individual facts and circumstances - your actual numbers - do not warrant a refund, unless he/she makes up deductions or exemptions or purposely does not report all your income. Either way that is tax fraud! The only claim or guarantee any legitimate tax preparer can make is that by using his/her services you will pay the absolute least amount of federal and state income taxes possible for your individual situation.
* Do not use a tax preparer who charges as his/her fee a percentage of your refund or of the amount of tax he/she has saved you. Chances are the person will illegally inflate your refund or savings to increase his/her fee. The fee for preparing a tax return should be based solely on the amount of time involved and/or the number of forms and schedules required.
* Do not use a tax preparer solely for the reason that he/she tells you that you can walk out of the office with a check in your hand. That person or firm is not selling competent and accurate tax preparation – they are selling usurious Refund Anticipation Loans, which you should avoid anyway. You want to use a tax preparer that is experienced and knowledgeable in tax law and not a loan shark.
* Do not use a tax preparer who will not sign your finished returns. All tax preparers are required by the IRS to sign all tax returns which they have been paid to prepare. If a person prepares your return and refuses to sign it you should refuse to pay him/her and take your “stuff” elsewhere.
* Do not use a “box” as a substitute for a tax preparer. I know I have said it before, but I cannot stress this strongly enough - no tax preparation software is a substitute for knowledge of the Tax Code. And no tax preparation software is a substitute for the services of a trained tax professional! As with any software program the rule is “garbage in - garbage out”. And when the IRS comes after you for errors on your tax return you can’t blame it on the software - the US Tax Court has on two separate occasions rejected the “Turbo-Tax Defense”.
So now you know what not to do!
Oh yes, and do not ask me to prepare your return. I am not accepting any new clients.