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If you’re hiring someone to do your taxes this year—and there are several situations in which you should—you need to make sure that person isn’t out to scam you. Unfortunately, there are tax “professionals” out there who aren’t qualified or who are straight-up dishonest and will use your business as an opportunity to engage in identity theft or fraud. Since you’re legally responsible for your taxes, it’s important to vet tax preparers before entrusting them with your return.

Check their PTIN

By law, all qualified tax preparers who are paid to assist with federal returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) registered with the IRS. This is a minimum requirement for any professional you hire. That said, not all tax preparers have the same education and expertise: Certified public accountants (CPAs), attorneys, and enrolled agents may all prepare federal returns, but there are also qualified preparers who don’t hold these credentials and have a more limited scope.

Legitimate tax pros will sign and include their PTIN on any return they prepare. “Ghost” preparers try to scam consumers by not signing returns—this is a red flag.

Check their availability

There are qualified tax pros who work seasonally or who are more limited in how they help clients—they can’t represent you in the case of an audit, for example—but you should look first for someone who will be available all year to answer questions about your return after tax season is over.

Check their credentials

As mentioned above, tax preparers don’t have to be CPAs, but you should look up their credentials and read customer reviews and complaints on sites like Better Business Bureau, Google, and Yelp to ensure your preparer is legit.

You can also check their membership in professional organizations and search for disciplinary actions through the State Board of Accountancy (for CPAs), the State Bar Association (for attorneys), or the IRS’ enrolled agent database.

You may also work with an authorized IRS e-file provider.

Check their fee structure

The IRS warns against using tax pros who charge based on a percentage of your refund as well as those who promise to get you a bigger refund than other preparers. You should also avoid anyone who claims to deposit refunds in their account before paying out to you. Be sure to check the bank account and routing numbers on your return before submitting it.

Check their preparation practices

A legitimate tax preparer will be thorough and ask for documentation and receipts to support your return. If they do not collect information about your income, deductions, and tax credits, be wary. E-filed tax returns must use a W-2 rather than a paystub, so if your preparer uses the latter, do not proceed.

Finally, make sure you review your return thoroughly before signing, and do not submit anything left blank or incomplete. Again, you are legally responsible for the information in your return even if someone else helps prepare it.

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