How to Select an Income Tax Return Preparer
Tips from the Internal Revenue Service and the State of California Franchise Tax Board
Make Informed Decisions
Before you select a tax preparer or tax preparation services:
- Check the tax preparer’s credentials to ensure the tax preparer meets your specific needs.
- Review the tax preparer’s history with these various licensing authorities:
- California Board of Accountancy for certified public accountants (CPAs) and public accountants (PAs).
- California Tax Education Council (CTEC) for CTEC-registered tax preparers (CRTPs).
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Return Preparer Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents (EAs).
- The State Bar of California for attorneys.
- Determine who will prepare your tax return before you contract for the service. Avoid tax preparers who delegate work to someone with less experience or knowledge.
- Ask if the tax preparer has a professional organization affiliation. The organization should provide or require its members to obtain continuing education and require them to adhere to an ethics code.
- Avoid tax preparers who guarantee a larger refund than other tax preparers. Given the same information, any qualified tax preparer should arrive at similar numbers.
- Select a tax preparer who can assist you if the IRS or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) contact you or audit your tax return.
- Understand your tax return. A good tax preparer should clearly answer any questions about your tax return.
- Review all information before you sign your tax return: name, address, social security numbers, or other tax identification numbers.
- e-file and request a direct deposit refund. You generally receive your refund within 10 days.
- Understand the fees and interest rates tax preparers may charge on Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs).
Preparer Tax Identification Number Requirement:
All paid tax return preparers are required to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS and renew it annually.
Go to irs.gov and search for choose a tax professional for additional information.
Avoid a tax preparer who:
- Does not provide you a copy of your tax return.
- Does not exercise due diligence in tax return preparation.
- Charges unconscionable tax return preparation fees.
- Asks you to sign a blank tax return, or sign a tax return in pencil.
- Does not provide a PTIN on your tax return.
- Refuses to sign your tax return or complete the required tax preparer information.
- Is not properly registered or licensed, including new IRS regulations.
Report Fraudulent Tax Preparers
- Go to irs.gov and search for preparer complaint.
- (800) 829-0433
- Go to ftb.ca.gov and search for report tax fraud.
- (800) 540-3453
Know the Law
No matter who prepares your tax return, you are legally responsible for its accuracy. The law requires a paid tax preparer to sign your tax return and complete the information in the space provided for paid tax preparers.Tax evasion is a crime which can be punishable by penalties, prison, and/or a fine.
Find Information About Your California Tax Preparer
Contact the appropriate California or federal licensing or regulatory agencies:
California Board of Accountancy
Licenses and regulates California CPAs and PAs.
- (916) 263-3680
California Tax Education Council (CTEC)
Registers California tax preparers not otherwise regulated.
- (877) 850-2832
IRS Return Preparer Office of Enrollment
Enrolls and regulates EAs.
- Go to irs.gov and search for verify enrolled agent status.
- (855) 472-5540
The State Bar of California
Licenses and regulates California attorneys.
- (866) 442-2529
Under California State Law, if your California paid tax preparer is not licensed or regulated by one of these agencies, the tax preparer may be preparing tax returns illegally.