Need help with taxes? BBB can help you find a preparer

Tax return checkBy Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor

Filing taxes may not be your favorite activity, but doing them right is imperative, whether you’re getting a refund or writing a check for (ugh!) additional tax.

Every year, BBB fields complaints from taxpayers about preparers who didn’t prepare taxes properly or who weren’t around when the taxpayer got a notice from the Internal Revenue Service about problems with the return. Some tax offices vanish after the filing deadline on April 15, leaving customers in the lurch.

Even worse, identity theft associated with tax returns has become a huge problem. The Federal Trade Commission reported earlier this month that tax identity theft had become the largest category of identity theft reported to the agency – 43 percent of ID theft complaints filed in 2012.

So what’s a taxpayer to do? Today’s BBB press release has tips on finding a reliable tax preparer. One of the most important is to check a preparer’s BBB Business Review on BBB’s website, where you can find out about any complaints filed against a business and how they were resolved. Make sure your preparer signs the return and that you do, too.

If you can’t resolve a problem with a preparer, file a complaint with BBB, and we’ll help you pursue it.

Be suspicious of any email you get that says there’s a problem with your return or claiming to be from the IRS at all. The IRS uses regular mail to communicate with taxpayers, not email or phone calls. Most of the suspicious emails are “phishing” – attempts to trick you into giving up sensitive information that a thief can use to commit identity theft.

The IRS also has noticed an uptick in scammers using someone else’s Social Security number to file returns before the legitimate owner of that number files the return. You could be a victim of this scheme if the IRS says you had income from an employer you don’t recognize.

If the IRS notifies you of a problem, don’t delay. Respond right away, and specialists will work with you to solve it and help you protect yourself from ID theft in the future.

For more BBB tips, go to our website or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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