Mark your calendars, you have less than a month left to file your taxes.

If you plan to hire someone to do it for you, here are some simple and easy steps to avoid a shady tax preparer!

Hiring a Tax Preparer

According to the IRS, anyone who’s paid to prepare taxes or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have what’s called a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN.

Preparers are also required to sign and include their PTIN on returns, so taxpayers can ask professionals for their PTIN.

There are different types of professionals that prepare tax returns including annual filing season participants, certified public accountants, attorneys, and enrolled agents.

Taxpayers can review their preparer’s credentials by searching the tax return preparer directory on the IRS website. (

Red Flags to Watch Out For

It’s unfortunate, but unscrupulous individuals take advantage of taxpayers every filing season. Here are some warning signs:

● Requires payments in cash only and don’t provide receipts

● Invents income to qualify customers for certain tax credits, or claims fake deductions to boost the amount of the refund

● Preparer directs refunds into their account instead of the taxpayer’s bank account.

● Doesn’t sign the return

● Isn’t available year-round

● Quickly sets up shop then disappears