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Updated: Feb 1, 2023

IR-2023-13, January 24, 2023

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to exercise caution when choosing a tax return preparer. Although most preparers provide a quality and honest service, some can cause harm due to fraud, identity theft, and other scams.

When hiring a person or firm to prepare your tax return, those filing need to understand who they chose and what are the important questions to ask.

A taxpayer's needs will determine the type of preparer that best suits him. Whether a taxpayer regularly uses a tax professional to help them file a tax return or they decided to work with one for the first time, choosing a tax professional carefully is of great importance. Taxpayers are responsible for all information on their tax return, regardless of who prepares it.

When choosing a tax professional, the IRS encourages taxpayers to visit The Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about the credentials and certifications of a tax return preparer. The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Select IRS Credentials and Certifications can help identify many preparers by credential or certification type.

Warning Sings

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in the preparation of federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on any return they prepare.

Failure to sign a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a large refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund. Taxpayers should avoid using these phantom tax return preparers.

A ghost preparer is someone who does not sign the tax returns they help prepare. Unscrupulous ghost preparers usually print the return and have the taxpayer sign the return and mail it to the IRS. For electronic tax returns, a ghost preparer will prepare the return, but will refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.

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