Spurred by increased reports of identity theft and fraudulent refunds, some taxpayers may opt to work with a paid tax preparer this year instead of filing their taxes on their own through an online tax service. For those considering a paid preparer for the first time, Wayne Titus, CPA, PFS, AIFA® recommends asking 10 questions developed by the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants.
In this age of frequent online security breaches, tax season may seem even more stressful to consumers this year. And, taxpayers seeking help from qualified tax preparers may be surprised to learn that only four states – California, Maryland, New York and Oregon – have adopted training and recertification requirements for paid tax preparers.
“In the majority of states, hair stylists are subject to more oversight than paid tax preparers,” says Wayne Titus, founding member of AMDG Financial, a fee-only financial services firm that provides tax planning as part of a holistic approach to helping clients achieve their financial goals. “That’s why it’s important for taxpayers to do their homework before selecting a tax preparer and method for filing this year.”
Titus says certified public accountants (CPAs) and attorneys are considered “enrolled agents” by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), meaning they have earned unlimited practice rights before the IRS. Others who become enrolled agents must demonstrate competence in tax matters through a written exam. All federal tax return preparers must obtain and include a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, when filing returns.
“When interviewing a prospective tax preparer, be sure to ask whether the individual has a PTIN, and if he or she intends to sign the return as a preparer,” says Titus. Preparers are required to sign returns, so if your preparer refuses to sign, you should take your private information elsewhere.
Titus says the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) has created a free, downloadable tip sheet to help consumers find a competent, ethical tax preparer. MICPA’s Top 10 Questions to Ask a Tax Preparer: Tips, Hints and Warning Signs also provides definitions for common tax preparation terms, as well as numbers to call for those who think they may have become victims of fraud.
“The law requires taxpayers to file an income tax return,” says Titus, “and even if another person prepares the return, the taxpayer is still responsible for the information. While no method of filing taxes is completely risk free, those who educate themselves before working with a paid tax preparer can greatly reduce their chances of becoming victims of fraud,” he added.
About AMDG Financial
AMDG Financial (http://www.amdgservices.com) is a fee-only fiduciary registered investment adviser (RIA) in Plymouth, Michigan. The firm manages approximately $80 million in assets for clients. AMDG Financial was one of the first 10 firms globally to be certified by the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (http://www.cefex.org/advisor) as following global best practices for investment adviser fiduciaries. The company’s credo is, “From financial wisdom, better stewardship.”