Effingham, Il (Via St. Louis, MO) – With tax season fast approaching, Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to be aware of the potential for, in some cases, poor service and sometimes questionable offers for quick tax refunds as they collect W-2 forms from their employers and prepare to file returns.
BBB received over 1400 complaints about tax preparation services in 2017, with most complaints concerning delivery, guarantees or service.
Rushing to file could be a mistake, especially if you have a complicated return. BBB advises consumers to check a tax preparer’s BBB Business Profile before filing.
BBB Business Profiles are a great way to check out any business, including tax professionals, such as accountants, lawyers or other preparers.
BBB rates companies from A+ to F based on factors such as how long a company has been in business and how it responds to customer complaints.
When searching for a tax preparer, there are a few considerations to make.
First, some tax preparation companies are open for only a few months every year, and it can be hard to track the preparer down if there are problems with your return.
Not all tax preparers are created equal, so it’s important to check their qualifications.
Ask what certifications they hold, how long they’ve been preparing taxes and what will happen if the Internal Revenue Service rejects or challenges your return.
Finally, be aware that some tax preparers may offer you a check or debit card rather than advising that you wait for the IRS to mail your refund.
BBB advises consumers that these are typically tax refund anticipation loans, sometimes with hidden fees and interest rates of 50 to 500 percent.
In most cases, tax refund loans give consumers their refund no more than a few days faster than the IRS, which can deposit refunds in your bank in as few as 10 days.
If a preparer makes a mistake in calculating your refund, borrowers may have to pay back the loan plus any fines and fees.
If you decide to hire a tax preparer, BBB advises that you:
• Do research. Ask for referrals, but check the preparer out with the BBB at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887 before you hire anyone.
• Get organized. Make sure you have all relevant documents, such as 1099 forms, before you file.
• Check credentials. Is the preparer a certified public accountant (CPA), a tax lawyer or an enrolled agent? Will the preparer sign your return and provide you with a copy? Does the preparer belong to a professional organization that requires members to adhere to a code of ethics?
• Understand refunds. Be wary of promises that you’ll get a refund. Until the preparer knows your situation, there is no way to know whether you’ll get a refund or how big it will be.
• Check accessibility. You may need to contact your preparer after tax season is over. Will he or she be available?
• Read the contract. Know what preparing your return will cost, what the fee covers and whether the cost changes if you have a complicated return. Will the preparer represent you in case of an audit?
• Check your return. Before you sign the return, read it over to check for mistakes. Ask the preparer to explain anything you don’t understand. Don’t forget to sign it.