Tips for hiring a tax preparer
Thinking of hiring a tax preparer to file your income tax return? Before you decide, consider all the Tax Department has to offer to ease the filing process:
- free electronic filing options;
- free tax assistance sites statewide where department volunteers can help walk you through the electronic preparation and filing process; and
- income tax forms that perform basic math to help reduce errors on your return. You can fill in these forms online and then print them out for your records.
If you do decide to hire a tax preparer, ask the four simple questions below to ensure the preparer you hire is, as most are, honest and in compliance with the tax law. Don’t fall prey to a tax preparer scam.
1. Are you registered with the IRS and New York State?
Tax preparers registered in New York State must meet continuing education requirements and minimum qualifications. Attorneys, certified public accountants, and IRS enrolled agents don’t need to register, but do have other professional requirements.
Ask to see the preparer’s registration certificate or proof that they aren’t required to register. You can also see Verify your tax preparer to search for your tax preparer in an online database of authorized preparers.
2. How much will your services cost?
Ask to see a list of fees. Fees should be directly related to the services provided—not the refund amount. Also, by law, preparers may not charge you extra for electronically filing your New York State return.
3. How will I receive my refund?
Your refund should never be deposited into your preparer's bank account. The fastest and safest way to receive your refund is to have it directly deposited into your bank account. However, the Tax Department can also mail you a refund check.
4. Will you sign my return?
Both you and your tax preparer must sign your completed tax return. Never hire a preparer who:
- won’t sign your return,
- doesn’t include their federal preparer tax identification number (PTIN) or social security number on your return,
- doesn’t include either their NYS registration number or exclusion code on your return, or
- asks you to sign your return before it’s fully prepared.
Make sure your preparer will:
- electronically file your return,
- base the tax return on your actual records and receipts, and
- be available after the tax return is filed, in case questions arise.
You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to see if a tax preparer has a history of consumer complaints.
File a complaint
If you're aware of a tax preparer who has or is engaged in illegal or improper conduct, file a tax preparer complaint. The Tax Department will review your complaint promptly and, where appropriate, take corrective action, which may include sanctions.
You can notify us:
- online using our Tax Preparer Complaint service, or
- by phone at 518-530-HELP (select option #2).