CONSUMER

Tax preparation pointers

Mar 7, 2018, 12:00 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 11:21 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Have you jumped into your 2017 tax return yet? Here are three tips that will protect you and your refund from fraud this tax season.

RESEARCH YOUR TAX PREPARER

If you’re going to hire someone to do your taxes, choose carefully. The IRS says we are responsible, even if the preparer goofed on our tax return.

Make sure the whomever you choose has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS. You’ll find it on IRS.gov along with a searchable list of preparers who face suspension or other actions.  Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.  In other words, make sure they have a good track record.

FILE YOUR TAX RETURN EARLY

We have until April 17 this year to file our taxes. But we shouldn’t wait until Tax Day.

The risk for tax return fraud has gone way, way up after the Equifax data breach, where hackers stole personal and financial info on 143 million Americans.  You can avoid a stolen refund by beating the scammers to the punch. File as early as you can and don’t file anything on public WiFi.

WATCH OUT FOR IMPOSTORS

Bad guys also pose as tax agents and call threatening people with arrest for past-due taxes. They’ve raked in more than $54 million, so far, with this scam.

To make their scam seem more legitimate, the criminals often “spoof” their caller IDs to make their calls look like they’re coming from the IRS. They’ll often demand to be paid in gift cards, money orders or prepaid debit cards.

Remember, the IRS never calls or emails to demand immediate payment.

FILE YOUR TAXES FOR FREE

If you made $66,000 or less last year, you can file your taxes online for free. A dozen tax prep companies like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer have partnered with the IRS’ Free File program.

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Tax preparation pointers