Every year many people become victims of tax related identity theft, a few of those cases are due to the tax preparer themselves altering the tax return for their own benefit. When it comes to preparing your taxes, it is easy enough to find someone to do it. Between January and April 15th you can generally find someone advertising their availability to prepare and file taxes around every corner, the problem that comes up is how credible is this preparer is.
Given the choice between someone that will prepare your taxes for $40 and someone that will do it for triple that amount, (with no other knowledge about the preparer) people will tend to go with the lower price in order to try to save money. This may work out well for you and you’ll get your refund and be on your way. But on the other hand it may end poorly resulting in missed out credits or even worse an audit.
As a taxpayer you must remember you are paying someone to handle your sensitive information, date of birth, social security number, address, these are all pieces of information you are voluntarily giving to someone who is meant to take this information and keep it safe and secure.
One of the biggest red flags that you should notice when going to any tax preparer is whether or not they signed their name as the person preparing the return. Signing your name as the person that prepared the return means that you are accountable for what is on that document, that you are not trying to defraud the government. It is very easy for a tax preparer to leave the return as self-prepared, leaving the liability on the taxpayer rather than the preparer. There have been many incidents where a tax preparer is around for a season or two then suddenly vanishes. Should their clients get a notice from the IRS and the preparer is no where to be found the clients are left perplexed as to what happened when they need to speak before the IRS.
In the end you have many choices when it comes to getting your taxes done, always make sure to double check the information that is on the return, and find a credible preparer that will sign their name on the return and not disappear. It tends to be that you get what you pay for so the question is, how much value do you put on your information and your preparer.