Consumer Alert: Tax preparer warning

The IRS is warning taxpayers to be mindful about which tax preparers they use to help them organize their tax returns as the deadline to file looms.

The agency says that the vast majority of tax preparers are honest, but there are always a few unscrupulous ones who should be avoided.

"You want to check their history," says IRS Special Agent Jonathan Larsen.

Larsen says that in addition to doing research, taxpayers should beware of any preparer who promises a refund.

"There isn't a tax preparer out there that can guarantee a refund," says Larsen. "It all depends on your particular tax situation."

The IRS says that legitimate tax preparers have special IDs issued by the IRS. Also not all tax preparers can represent a taxpayer before the IRS. Anyone who needs to be represented would need to contact an enrolled agent or certified public accountant.

A tax preparer should charge a flat fee, not a percentage of a refund. Larsen also says to never sign a blank return, and if the tax preparer asks for that, find a new one.

"You are ultimately responsible for everything that's contained on that return," Larsen says. "If you sign a blank return, you have no idea what's going to be placed on that return. So you're opening yourself up for the potential for fraud."

Anyone who has a complaint about a certain tax preparer can log that complaint with the IRS through its website.

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