Skip to Main Content

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 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

Contact IRS

Go to and search for preparer complaint.

Contact FTB

Go to and search for report tax fraud.

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.


California Tax Education Council (CTEC)
Registers California tax preparers not otherwise regulated.


IRS Return Preparer Office of Enrollment
Enrolls and regulates EAs.

Go to and search for verify enrolled agent status.

The State Bar of California
Licenses and regulates California attorneys.


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.

Is there something wrong with this page?

Help us improve our website

Don't include social security numbers or other personal/confidential information.

Last Updated: ised 10/2015