Use caution when selecting a tax preparer last minute

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If you are one of the many New York residents who are waiting until the last minute to file your 2013 income tax return, you may be starting to panic and desperate for help.

However, before you turn to just any tax preparer, make sure that you find someone you can trust and that you find out their fees upfront.

As we reported in a past post, the IRS does not have the authority to regulate tax preparers, which means that many so-called tax experts are not certified or properly-trained to deal with complicated tax matters.

Additionally, a recent article from the New York Times discusses how some tax preparer services prey on low-income individuals by charging large fees to file their relatively simple income tax returns. Other preparers, the article said, even go so far as committing fraud.

Unfortunately, the sketchy preparers see the opportunity as fruitful as they are easily able to take their fees straight from the filer’s return. Unsuspecting Americans can be taken advantage of when fees are not disclosed until the return has already been completed and the fees have been discreetly deducted.

The article also indicated that, according to a taxpayer advocate for the IRS, a majority of low- and moderate-income working people use tax preparers, but only about 25 percent use preparers that are tax attorneys, public accountants or federally-licensed tax specialists.

Finally, while many service providers may offer individuals help preparing their tax returns, only a licensed tax attorney can help with the filing as well as represent the person in a legal sense if the case should get complicated or involve an audit.

Keep these things in mind as you are looking for help filing your 2013 tax return before the April 15 deadline.

Source: New York Times, “Tax Preparers Targeting Poor With High Fees,” Campbell Robertson, APRIL 7, 2014

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