In IR–2020–17, the Service warned taxpayers about "ghost" preparers who are not willing to sign returns. Some "ghost" preparers promise large refunds from these tax returns.
Under federal law, a tax preparer must have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A paid preparer must sign each return and include his or her PTIN.
If a tax preparer is not willing to sign the return, consumers should be on guard. This is particularly a risk if the tax preparer promises a large refund or if a preparation fee is based on the size of the refund.
Your ghost preparer may also have one or more of the following red flags.
- Requires payment in cash
- Pads income to qualify for tax credits
- Fakes deductions to increase refund
- Sends refunds to the preparer's bank account
Information on selecting a tax preparer is available on IRS.gov
. The IRS provides a Choosing a Tax Professional page, which explains how to review your preparer's credentials. There also is a Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers.
Every taxpayer should review their Form 1040 before it is filed. Your tax preparer should be willing to answer any questions that you may have. Because most tax returns and refunds are handled through electronic methods, double check the return for your correct bank account and bank routing numbers.
If you believe your tax preparer is not following proper rules, the IRS offers Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a tax preparer files your return without your knowledge or consent, file Form 14157A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.