The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance today provided a checklist to help ensure that taxpayers who decide to hire a tax professional choose a qualified and ethical one.
“First, I would urge taxpayers—particularly those with simple returns—to review our free-filing options, available online or in-person at our free-filing sites,” said New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt. “Those who do decide to hire a preparer should review the information that follows.”
Tips for hiring a tax preparer
Shop around. Friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers may be able to refer you to an ethical and competent tax preparer. Meet with all the tax professionals you’re considering hiring. It’s important to know if they’ve worked with others in similar tax situations, how long they’ve been preparing returns, and how you’ll communicate moving forward.
You may be able to read reviews from previous clients. This will help you get a sense of the quality of the preparer’s work, their timeliness, and customer service.
Check credentials. Preparers registered with New York State must meet continuing education requirements and minimum qualifications. Attorneys, certified public accountants, and IRS enrolled agents aren’t required to register, but do have other professional requirements. Ask to see the preparer’s registration certificate or proof that they don’t need to register. You can also verify that a tax preparer is registered online.
Ask about fees. Ask to see a list of fees up front. The fees should be directly related to the services provided and not the refund amount. Tax preparers in New York City must display their fees and their credentials in plain sight. Also, by law, preparers cannot charge to e-file your tax return in New York State.
Protect your refund. The fastest and safest way to receive your refund is to have it directly deposited into your bank account.
Ensure security. It’s critical that your private information is protected. Question any potential preparer about how your sensitive data will be safeguarded during the tax filing process and after your return has been filed, as well as how many people will have access to your files.
Look for red flags. Never hire a preparer who won’t sign or electronically file (e-file) your return, and never sign a return before it’s fully prepared. You and your preparer must both sign your completed return. Preparers must include their federal preparer tax identification number (PTIN) or Social Security number on the return, and either their New York State registration number or exclusion code.
Beware of preparers who say they will prepare your return for a percentage of the refund. If a tax preparer won’t provide information about fees, this should tip you off that something isn’t right. Never hire a preparer who promises a large refund without reviewing your information, and steer clear of those who suggest you claim a bogus deduction or credit.
In the end, you are ultimately responsible for the information reported on your tax return and any amounts you owe. It is important that you review your return carefully before the return is filed.
For additional information, visit our Tips for hiring a tax preparer webpage. If you suspect that a tax preparer is engaged in illegal or improper conduct, please file a complaint with the NYS Tax Department:
- on our website, or
- by phone at 518-530-HELP.
The Tax Department will review your complaint promptly and, if appropriate, take corrective action that may include sanctions.