Tax Preparation Help  
Tax Topic #254 2008 Tax Year

Topic 254 - How to Choose a Paid Tax Preparer

If you pay someone to prepare your tax return, choose that preparer wisely. A person who prepares tax returns for others should have a good understanding of tax matters. Two states (California and Oregon) currently require paid preparers to have a license or registration. If your state does not have a license or registration requirement, you may want to check with friends, co-workers, or your employer for help in selecting a "reputable" preparer. Choose a preparer you will be able to contact in case your return is examined by the IRS and there are questions regarding how your return was prepared.

Beware of a preparer who guarantees you a refund before getting your financial information or who claims to have a "special" relationship with the IRS.

A paid preparer is required, by law, to sign the return and fill in the preparer area of the form. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. Unscrupulous tax return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients by filing false income tax returns. Carefully review the completed return before you sign it to be sure all tax information, including your name, address, and social security number(s) is correct. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of the return. Never sign a blank return, and never sign in pencil! If you have provided specific authorization in a power of attorney filed with the IRS, you may have copies of notices or your refund check mailed to your preparer or representative; but only you can sign and cash your refund check. For further information on Power of Attorney, refer to Topic 311.

A new Third Party Authorization Check Box on Form 1040 (PDF), Form 1040A (PDF), and Form 1040EZ (PDF) allows you to designate your paid preparer to speak to the IRS concerning the preparation of your return, payment and refund issues, and mathematical errors.

For tax years 2003 and subsequent, the Third Party Authorization Check Box gives the designated party the authority of Form 8821 (PDF), Tax Information Authorization for one year from the due date of your return. Please see Topic 312 for information on Form 8821.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 22, 2008

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