Be careful when selecting a tax return preparer
This means finding someone with an established business and a good reputation, and knowing certain warning signs.
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 IRS Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, authorizing the 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 of your information and you’ve confirmed it is 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 is not authorized to have your refund deposited into a bank account under his or her control.
As explained on IRS 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, such as your tax return preparer's bank account. Although you may owe your return preparer a fee for preparing and filing your tax return, don't have any part of your refund deposited into the return preparer's bank account to pay the fee.
Always get a complete copy of your return 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.
If you are a victim of return preparer fraud or misconduct
The first indication you’ve been victimized by an unscrupulous preparer might be correspondence from the IRS. For example: An IRS notice may alert you to a mistake on your tax return or that it’s being audited. 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 IRS 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:
- IRS Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer
- A copy of the return provided to you by the preparer.
- A signed copy of the return as you intended it to be filed.
- Proof of the refund amount (if applicable).
- If your refund was direct deposited, a copy of your bank statement showing the deposit amount.
- If your refund was mailed, a copy of the paper refund check.
- Copies of documents you received from the return preparer.
- Additional information about the 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.
IRS Form 14157A 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.
Make sure you keep copies of everything for your records.