Tips for finding a tax preparer

If you need help preparing your tax return, choose help wisely. As a taxpayer, you are legally responsible for everything reported on your tax return; whether you prepare it yourself or have someone else prepare it for you.

When selecting an individual or company to prepare your taxes, here are a few tips:

  • Check the person or company’s qualifications.
  • Check the preparer’s history.
  • Ask about their service fees.
  • Make sure they are accessible after the April due date in case you have a question about your return.

The preparer you choose should:

  • Ask you to provide all receipts and records needed to prepare your return.
  • Not ask you to direct any part of your refund to an account that is not in your or your spouse’s name.
  • Never ask you to sign a blank return.
  • Allow you to review the completed return, including all schedules and attachments, and explain it all to you before you sign it.
  • Sign the return, include their preparer tax identification number and provide you a copy.

Here are more tips to keep in mind and check the Choose a Tax Professional page on for helpful steps to ensure you are choosing a tax professional wisely.

Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. 

You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or altered a return without your consent, you should also fileForm 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can download or order the forms on the website.

If you can’t afford a paid preparer, there are several options for free tax preparation.

  • Free File is an option available to most taxpayers with income less than $58,000. It’s available at where a number of tax software companies make their products available for free.
  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers. Click here to find a VITA site near you.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly offers priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older. To find a TCE site near you, visit the AARP locator Web page.
  • At select volunteer tax sites, taxpayers also have an option to prepare their own basic federal and state tax return for free using Web-based tax preparation software with an IRS-certified volunteer to help guide you through the process. This option is only available at locations that list “Self-Prep” in the site listing.
  • Active duty military members and their families can receive free tax preparation assistance at VITA sites within their installations. The volunteer return preparers are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues.

Created: December 2015

Tips for finding a tax preparer

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