BBB says watch out for sketchy tax preparers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We have a heads-up for anyone who wants to use a tax preparer to do their return: A lot of services out there want to take advantage of you.

“The reason we go to tax preparers is tax laws are pretty complicated, and so we’re looking for help. And to some extent, that might make some people susceptible to someone who seems legit,” said Randy Hutchinson, with the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. “Some returns, some refunds, tend to be pretty big and the crooks are trying to get their share.”

The Better Business Bureau has some tips when it comes to avoiding shady preparers. First off, make sure they have a preparer’s tax identification number.

“That means he is registered or licensed by the IRS to prepare tax returns,” Hutchinson said.

But that’s not enough. So here are some other tips. Don’t trust a tax preparer who takes a percentage of your refund as a fee, promises they’ll get you more money than anyone else or encourages you to fudge the numbers.

“If they encourage you to claim deductions or credits that you’re not entitled to, to hold income, it’s a red flag,” Hutchinson said.

Remember,  you are ultimately responsible for your tax return. If your tax preparer does something wrong and the IRS catches it through an audit, you’re the one who’s on the hook.

That’s why there are two more things to check before the return is filed.

“Be sure they don’t ask you to sign a return that has blanks in it, and that they have not signed themselves,” Hutchinson said.

You can also check to see if the tax preparer in question is registered with the Better Business Bureau. The deadline to file is April 15.

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