According to the Internal Revenue Service, as many as 1.2 million individuals earn fees for preparing Americans’ tax returns.
Over the years, the Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints about tax preparers who fail to file tax returns on time, charge excessive fees, fail to secure anticipated refunds and fail to return personal financial documents to customers. Texans have also voiced concerns about tax preparers making errors on their customers’ tax returns or disappearing after returns are filed.
To avoid becoming a tax return scam victim, the attorney general's office urges Texans to take four quick steps before hiring a tax return preparation professional:
• Ask for the tax preparer’s credentials.
• Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the tax preparer.
• Verify whether the tax preparer is a certified public accountant.
• Make sure the business is open year-round in the event clients need to ask follow-up questions about their returns.
Texans should make sure they know the exact fee for a preparer’s services and insist on a date by which their returns will be filed with the IRS. Clients also should make arrangements to have the tax preparer return personal financial papers used during preparation of the returns. More importantly, Texans should confirm the basis for all tax deductions the tax preparer claims on their returns. Taxpayers are ultimately subject to accuracy and fraud penalties, plus accrued interest, for any income tax underpayment caused by filing incorrect tax returns.
Taxpayers can generally get information from the IRS about their refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of an e-filed return, or three to four weeks after mailing a paper return.
Finally, Texans should not respond to e-mails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Fraudulent e-mails typically direct a taxpayer to a Web link that requests personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. Taxpayers should also verify the identification and documentation of anyone claiming to be an IRS agent.
Texans may forward such bogus e-mails to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org or file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General at 800-252-8011 or online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.