April 15 is just over the horizon. If you haven’t yet filed your taxes, it’s not time to panic. But it soon will be. As April 15 looms closer and closer, it’s easy to just rush out and sign up with first tax preparation service that can take you. But there are phony services out there whose goal in life is to scam you. Here are some tips for avoiding them.
Don’t hand over your vital information to the wrong people
Identity theft is America’s largest and fastest growing crime. If you willingly hand over your financial information to wrong person, it could happen to you. What unscrupulous thieves are doing is adding false information on their clients’ tax returns and requesting too high refunds.
Don’t have your refunds sent to them
These scam artists will ask that your refund be sent directly to them or they say they will take a specific percentage of he refund rather a flat fee. Given the fact that they now have your vital information, including your Social Security Number, they might just hand onto your information and use it to file other fraudulent returns in the future.
They can have elaborate systems
These are not petty thieves, either. Some of them will set up intricate systems that include several accomplices such as family members. The bigger scams regularly take millions of dollars from the federal government. As an example of this, one tax preparation service in the south was recently found guilty of filing over 1,000 fraudulent tax returns that claimed a total of $1.7 million in refunds.
How to choose a legitimate tax preparer
There are things you can do to make sure the tax preparation service you’re about to entrust with your most vital financial information is legitimate. First, check its qualifications. It should have a PTIN or Preparer Tax Identification Number. Second, check its history. Look up the person or company with your local Better Business Bureau to see if it’s had past disciplinary action. Third, check its service fees. Legitimate tax preparers will have an hourly rate or specific fee. Do not under any circumstances go with a preparer who wants a percentage of your refund. As about its refund delivery and make sure it will go directly to you. If the preparer boasts that it can get you a larger refund than anyone else, run – do not walks – to the nearest exit. This is a big red flag.
Review all your documents
Your tax preparer should ask for your paperwork such as your W-2 and any 1099s you’ve received. When he or she completes your return, review it very carefully before you sign it. Insist that your preparer also sign the return with his or her PTIN. And never, never sign a blank return.
Ask for electronic filing
Any tax preparation service that’s responsible for more than 10 returns must file information electronically unless you request your returns on paper.
Just looking to scam you
The harsh truth is that some tax preparation services are just out to scam you or the government. But if you follow the tips in this article, you should be able to avoid them. There are many tax preparation services that are experienced and trustworthy. It can take time to find one but is definitely worth the trouble to protect your important financial information.