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Rev. date: 12/09/2013

How to Choose a Tax Return Preparer

Tax Topic 254
If you choose to have someone other than yourself prepare your tax return, choose that preparer wisely. A paid tax return preparer with primary responsibility for overall substantive accuracy of a return is required, by law, to sign the return and include a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) on the return. Although the tax return preparer signs the return, you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. A person who prepares tax returns for others should have a good understanding of tax matters. All paid tax return preparers are now required to have a PTIN. You may want to check with friends, co-workers, or your employer for help in selecting a competent tax return preparer.
Choose a tax return preparer you will be able to contact in case your return is examined by the IRS and there are questions regarding how your return was prepared. A third party authorization checkbox on Form 1040, Form 1040-A, and Form 1040-EZ allows you to designate your paid tax return preparer or another third party to speak to the IRS concerning the preparation of your return, payment and refund issues, and mathematical errors. The third party authorization checkbox gives the designated party the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information for one year from the due date of your return (without regard to extensions). Please see Tax Topic 312 for information on providing the authority to receive and inspect returns and return information to a third party generally, using Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization.

Steps You Can Take to Find a Tax Return Preparer

Most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. But, unscrupulous tax return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients by filing false income tax returns.
Use the following points for taxpayers to assist you when selecting a tax return preparer:
More information on about choosing a tax return preparer and avoiding fraud can be found in IRS Tax Tip 2013-07. In addition, see PTIN Requirements for Tax Return Preparers on our website, for additional tax return preparer requirements.