AARP Eye Center
The Internal Revenue Service expects paid professionals to prepare more than half of the 155 million federal tax returns Americans will file this year. But officials urge consumers to be careful when picking someone to do their taxes.
In recent years professional tax advisers have been undercut by fraudsters, scammers and hackers. Scammers using false identities stole at least $1.68 billion in tax refunds in 2016 alone, according to a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
The IRS has been cracking down on fraudulent tax return preparers. This week, Missouri tax preparer Evelyn Johnson was sentenced to 18 months in prison for filing several false returns for clients who’d been offered “refund guarantees.” In January, Kansas tax preparer Alfred Reece was sentenced to 96 months in prison for claiming false business income and losses, medical deductions, and charitable donations on several clients’ returns.
“Make sure you’ve got a good, reputable tax professional to work with,’’ says IRS senior spokesman Terry Lemons. “This isn’t like getting your oil changed. When you’re dealing with one of your most financially sensitive documents, it’s as important as picking a doctor.”
Here are some tips to follow when looking for a tax professional:
Start with the IRS. The agency requires certified public accountants, attorneys, enrolled agents, actuaries and other paid tax preparers to have a preparer tax identification number, or PTIN. Without a PTIN, they aren’t allowed to prepare or file a federal tax return for clients. Preparers with PTINs are listed in the online IRS directory.