From the Better Business Bureau:
With another tax season underway, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is encouraging taxpayers to take their time finding and selecting a tax preparer they can trust to avoid mistakes that could result in additional fees or even tax identity theft.
In 2015, the BBB received more than 3,300 complaints against tax return preparation businesses across the United States and Canada. Common complaints state that the tax preparer made errors in their return which resulted in fines and fees.
The BBB’s Scam Tracker has also reported over 14,800 scams, with tax collection and IRS scams being the most commonly reported.
Most victims of tax identity theft are unaware their identity has been stolen until they file their return and discover that a return has already been filed using their Social Security Number (SSN). In some cases, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may send the victim a letter informing the victim that it has identified a suspicious return using their SSN.
Signs that you may be a victim of tax theft include:
- More than one tax return filed using your SSN
- You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return
- IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work
The BBB offers the following tips to prevent becoming a victim of a tax scam:
- File now if you can. This is not always possible for everyone, because many are waiting for their W2 paperwork; however, the sooner you file the better. The IRS began accepting tax returns on January 19, with a filing deadline of April 18, 2016, rather than the traditional April 15 date.
- Use a business you trust. Find tax professionals with BBB’s Accredited Business Directory.
- File electronically. If a refund is due, you can get your refund in less than a month by filing electronically and requesting that your refund be deposited directly into your account.
- Use ID theft prevention measures. Do not carry your Social Security card and don’t provide the number to a business or organization just because they ask for it. In addition, don’t carry your Medicare card unless you’re going to a doctor for the first time.
- Check your credit report. Request your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. You will be asked for your Social Security number and date of birth for authentication purposes.
The BBB offers tips when searching for a trustworthy tax preparer:
- Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney or an enrolled agent. All three can represent you before the IRS in all matters, including an audit.
- Don’t fall for the promise of a big refund. Be wary of any tax preparation service promising larger refunds than the competition. Avoid any tax preparer who bases their fee on a percentage of the refund.
- Think about accessibility. Many tax preparation services only set up shop for the months leading up to April 18. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, make sure you are able to contact you tax preparer at any time of the year.
- Read the contract carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it is going to cost for the service, how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected and whether the tax preparer will represent you in the case of an audit.
Of course, at Allshred Services, we would recommend shredding everything you can – even junk mail. Contact our reps today – it’s easy – and we can help! Additionally, every year, we have a shred day in conjunction the Greater Toledo Better Business Bureau to “protect your identity.” Check out or paper shredding event day calendar for more information.