Be careful when selecting a tax return preparer
This means finding someone with an established business and a good reputation, and taking steps to protect yourself.
How to protect yourself
Don’t authorize the return preparer to file your tax return until you’ve reviewed it and made sure all your information is correct. This means deductions, credits, personal details, and any direct deposit information. You can authorize a tax return by signing the actual tax return or Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, authorizing the tax return preparer to use your Personal Identification Number (PIN) to submit your tax return electronically.
Never sign a blank tax form. You should only sign the tax return after the return preparer enters all your information and you’ve confirmed it’s correct.
Never have your refund or any portion of your refund direct deposited into an account under the return preparer’s control. Although you can split your refund among up to three different bank accounts, a return preparer isn’t authorized to have your refund deposited into an account under his or her control, even if you owe the preparer a fee for preparing your tax return.
As explained on Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases), the bank account must be in your name. Don’t request a deposit of your refund to an account that isn’t in your name.
Always get a complete copy of your return and keep it for your records. You must verify your tax return includes the return preparer’s name, signature, and Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid return preparers must have a PTIN issued by the IRS. They must enter that number, along with their name and signature, on every tax return they prepare in exchange for payment and must give you a copy of the tax return.
Get your tax record and monitor for any activity on your account.
If you’re a victim of tax return preparer fraud or misconduct
The first indication you’ve been victimized by a dishonest return preparer might be correspondence from the IRS. For example: An IRS notice alerting you to a mistake on your return or notification of an audit. Another way you might find out is if a transcript of your account doesn’t match the tax return you signed.
No matter how you find out you’re the victim of return preparer fraud or misconduct, you need to take the following steps:
- Contact your local police department and file a report naming the return preparer as a suspect.
- Fill out Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. This form will outline the other documents you need to submit to the IRS, which include:
- Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer.
- A copy of the tax return provided to you by the return preparer.
- A signed copy of the tax return as you intended it to be filed.
- Proof of the refund amount (if applicable).
- If your refund was direct deposited, provide a copy of your bank statement showing the deposit amount.
- If your refund was mailed, provide a copy of the paper refund check.
- Copies of documents you received from the tax return preparer.
- Additional information about the tax return preparer, such as a copy of a business card, promotional flyer, or local business listing.
- Copies of documents to support your claim, such as:
- A signed and dated statement providing an in-depth explanation of the misconduct.
- A copy of the police report.
Make sure you keep copies of everything for your records.
Form 14157-A has a long list of requested documents. If you don’t have all of them available, file your complaint with the information you do have. In some cases, the IRS will consider the claim even without one or two requested documents.