With the tax season officially underway, many South Carolina taxpayers will search for help to prepare their tax returns. If you’re planning to use a tax preparer for the 2020 tax season, be sure to do your homework before handing over your most sensitive tax information.

While most tax preparers are honest and provide great service, there are some who try to take advantage of unsuspecting clients.

The IRS offers the following tips to help you make an informed decision when choosing the right tax preparer for you.

Avoid tax preparers who:

  • Base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
  • Claim they can obtain larger refunds than other tax preparers.
  • Ask you to sign a blank tax return.

What to consider in picking a tax preparer:

  • Check their qualifications. All preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications to help find a preparer.
  • Ask about the preparer’s fees. Do not give them your tax documents, Social Security numbers, or other personal information when making this request.
  • Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. The quickest and most accurate way to get your refund is to electronically file and use direct deposit.
  • Confirm that your preparer will be available after the tax filing deadline in case you have questions.
  • Look up tax preparers and read their reviews to make sure there aren’t any red flags. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the preparer doesn’t have a questionable history.

After you select a preparer:

  • Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Good preparers will ask for these and will ask questions to help calculate your total income, tax deductions, and credits.
  • Review the entire return and make sure you understand everything about your return before signing. Also be sure any refund goes directly to you. Ask for a copy of your return and hold on to it for your records.

How to report suspected tax fraud and identity theft
If you suspect tax fraud or identity theft, report it to the IRS and the SCDOR.

To the IRS:

  • Use Form 14157 to report any suspected tax fraud or abusive tax preparers.
  • Use Form 14157-A if you suspect a tax preparer filed or changed your return without your consent.
  • Use Form 14039 if you are an actual or potential victim of identity theft.

To the SCDOR:

  • Use CID-27 to report suspected tax fraud.
  • Use I-381 to report if you are an actual or potential victim of identity theft.