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Categorized | Tax Time

Protect your tax return, be smart when searching for a tax preparer

From the BBB of Western Michigan


The new year brings with it the start of tax season. Even with the government shutdown, the IRS says it will begin processing returns on January 28th. Of course, the filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019. Even with the convenience of tax return software, more than half of returns submitted to the IRS last year were prepared by someone other than the taxpayer. 

“This is the time of year we see an increase in tax fraud targeting consumers,” says Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan. “Taxpayers could lose a lot of money if they are not careful about who they hire to do their taxes.” With this in mind, it is important to take steps to ensure your returns are accurate and secure.

Find the right tax preparer

Do your research. Before hiring someone, check their background and reputation. Research the preparer online and at bbb.org. Meet with them and make sure you are comfortable with the person doing your taxes.

Ask about their fees ahead of time. Know how much they charge for their services before hiring them. This includes any fees for e-Filing State, Federal and Local returns.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of tax services who make a promise of a big refund, or asks for a percentage of your return for a fee.

Where are they after April 15th? Always be sure to ask the tax service how you can contact them after tax season ends, especially if they are at a temporary location. 

Be prepared.When it is time to prepare your return make sure you have all of your tax forms and receipts ready. For more information visit irs.gov or michigan.gov/taxes

Read before you sign. Go over your return thoroughly before submitting it to the government. Read each page and never sign a blank return. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand or any numbers that don’t make sense. In most cases the preparer must also sign the return. Remember, you are responsible for the accuracy of your return.

Do your taxes early. One common fraud during tax season involves identity theft. Scammers try to submit a return in your name and have your refund come to them. You can avoid this by beating them too it, and submitting your tax return early.

Use direct deposit. Waiting for a check in the mail can be frustrating. The fastest way to receive your tax refund is by attaching your bank account and routing information to your return. Be sure to double check for mistakes, including banking and routing numbers. Mistakes will delay your refund. 

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