Finding tax help you can trust
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Tax time can be stressful, especially if the person you turn to for help with your taxes doesn’t do the job you expected.
Each year during tax season, my office hears from consumers about tax preparers who do poor work, file documents without consumers’ approval and charge unreasonably high fees.
For example, more than 100 consumers complained to us about a Charlotte area tax preparer that filed people’s tax returns without their permission and charged excessive fees for tax preparation services. We took the company to court to get it to change its business practices and won $60,000 back for consumers.
So how can you make sure you get trustworthy help with your taxes? There are many reputable tax preparation services that do a good job for their clients. If you’re considering using a tax preparer, keep the following tips in mind:
Check out the tax preparer’s credentials and experience. To see if they’ve had any complaints filed against them, call my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or your local Better Business Bureau.
Before you enter into a written agreement with a tax preparation service, be sure to find out the total cost and read the contract or other paperwork carefully before you sign it.
Be careful about emailing information to a tax preparer or accountant because email is vulnerable to hackers. If you’re using a website to file your taxes, make sure your information is protected by looking for the lock icon on the address bar.
Guard your personal information. Identity thieves can use your Social Security Number to take out loans, open credit cards or even collect your tax refund. Be wary of anyone who calls or emails you and offers to help with your taxes or claims to be with the IRS. If the IRS needs to contact you, it will do so by mail—not by email, phone or text message.
Beware of tax preparers who try to sell you an extra guarantee. These guarantees claim that the company will reimburse you if they make a mistake with your tax returns and your filing has to be amended.
Be skeptical of ads that promise to help resolve your debt to the IRS for cents on the dollar. Many of these companies charge hefty fees but rarely get results.
If you have questions about something a tax preparer tells you about your taxes, check it out. You can contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or the NC Department of Revenue at 1-877-252-4052.