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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2024 > Choosing the right tax preparer

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Choosing the right tax preparer

You’ve likely received all of your 2023 tax documents, including W2 forms, and may be considering hiring a professional tax preparer. Choosing the right person is crucial. Here are some considerations:

First, determine, the type of professional you need. Tax preparers may be certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents, or attorneys. An enrolled agent is a person who can represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Enrolled agents, like attorneys and CPAs, are generally unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle and where they can practice.

Thoroughly research the preparer, as they’ll have access to your personal information, including your Social Security number. Remember, you're ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your return.
The IRS recommends the following steps when selecting a tax preparer: 
  1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool – which is both searchable and sortable – helps taxpayers find a preparer with specific qualifications. Remember: Any tax preparer should have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. Also, check out the preparer through the Better Business Bureau.
  2. Check the preparer’s history. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the Supreme Court of Ohio. For enrolled agents, go to the verify enrolled agent status page on or check the directory.  
  3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information until you’ve actually retained that person. 
  4. Ask to e-file.  The quickest way to get your refund is to electronically file your federal tax return and use direct deposit. 
  5. Make sure the preparer is available. Contact your tax preparer as early as possible to make sure he or she has time to file your taxes before this year’s deadline. Be wary of tax preparers offering inexpensive last-minute services.
  6. Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things such as total income, tax deductions and credits. 
  7. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.
  8. Review before signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is unclear. You should feel comfortable with the accuracy of your return before you sign it. You should also make sure that your refund goes directly to you – not to the preparer’s bank account. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return. 
  9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes the PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
  10. Use your account. If you are receiving a refund electronically through direct deposit, be sure that your routing number and account number are being submitted, not those of your tax preparer.
  11. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Most tax preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a tax preparer filed or changed your tax return without your consent, file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. 
Also, be sure to review the IRS’ list of tax scams so you don’t become a victim by losing money and/or personal information.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office advises consumers to file early in the tax season if possible. The sooner you file, the less likely it is that someone else can commit tax identity theft. Tax identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to file a tax return and fraudulently obtains your refund.

If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, contact the Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.