Better Business Bureau tax season tips

The IRS has announced it has started accepting tax returns. More than 153 million individual tax returns are expected to be filed in 2017. The agency expects more than four out of five tax returns will be prepared electronically using tax preparation software. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota offers tips for the public as tax season looms into view.
“Many people aim to get their taxes done as soon as possible,” said Barb Grieman, Senior Vice President of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “If you have someone prepare your taxes, you always want to make sure they’re qualified and will have your best interests in mind.”
This year, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds for returns that contain an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit until February 15th, to ensure the claims are accurate. Taxpayers who are changing tax software products this filing season will need their adjusted gross income from their 2015 tax return to file electronically.
BBB offers the following tips on finding a trustworthy tax preparer:
• Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on who they use and research free BBB Business Profiles on tax preparers and tax preparation services at bbb.org.
• Consider accessibility. Some tax preparation services wind down their operations shortly after the April 18 tax deadline. In case the IRS finds errors or in case of an audit, you need to be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
• Bigger isn’t always better. Be wary of tax preparation services that promise larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
• Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider.
• Make sure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A valid 2017 PTIN must be obtained by all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund, or other tax form submitted to the IRS.
• Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history with your state’s Board of Accountancy (for CPA’s), the State Bar Association (for attorneys) or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for enrolled agents.
• Remember that a Paid Preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of your tax return.
• Read the contract carefully. Read contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it will cost for the service, how that cost will be affected if your tax preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected, and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit.
• Don’t forget about Free File. If your adjusted gross income is $64,000 or less, Free File offers free Federal tax preparation and e-filing. Visit irs.gov/freefile to learn more.
The IRS says taxpayers will receive their tax refunds quicker by using e-file or Free File, with the direct deposit option.
BBB also warns people about tax refund fraud, a form of identity theft where someone else fraudulently files a tax return in your name. This is a serious issue, one that is difficult to detect and can delay the tax refund you’re due. One of the best ways to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud is to file your tax return as soon as possible.

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