The deadline for filing your income tax return is fast approaching. By doing a little homework now, before you hire a tax preparer, you can save yourself the hassle of being ripped off or having to deal with an erroneous income tax return.
It is well worth the time to look for a qualified, dependable and trustworthy tax preparer to ensure your private financial information stays private and the information included with your tax return is accurate. You are responsible for the contents of your return, regardless of who prepared it.
BBB suggests the following tips for choosing a reputable tax preparer and avoiding those who may be problematic:
Check on qualifications. Ask about their training, experience and knowledge of current tax law, and whether they are members of a professional organization with continuing education requirements and a code of ethics.
Learn about their service terms in advance. Find out whether they guarantee the accuracy of their work and amend the return if there's a mistake.
Ask for references. Get referrals from satisfied clients.
Check with BBB (vi.bbb.org) to determine if the tax preparer has a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.
Request a quote. Ask for an estimate of the preparation fee before authorizing the work.
BBB advises consumers to steer clear of tax preparers who sound too good to be true. Beware if they:
Boast they can obtain larger refunds than their competitors.
Pressure you to sign up for immediate payment of your refund. This involves a loan that typically carries a high interest rate.
Base their fee on a percentage of the refund amount, rather than the complexity of the tax return; or
Don't ask to review your records and receipts, or discuss whether you qualify for expenses and deductions.
Once your income tax return is prepared, make certain the preparer has signed it and get a copy and payment receipt for your records. Also, review the return before signing it and ask for clarification of any entry you don't understand.
A tax preparer is acting illegally if they encourage you to claim inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions or excessive exemptions; manipulate your income level to obtain false tax credits; ask you to sign a blank or incomplete form or guarantee you will not be audited.
To learn how to file online and other information about Canadian tax law, go to the Canada revenue Agency website: cra.gc.ca
March is Fraud Prevention Month. Get educated. Stay Informed. For tips on protecting yourself from becoming a victim of fraud, visit vi.bbb.org (Vancouver Island)
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