Identity Theft: When a Rogue Tax Preparer Could Cost You More than a Filing Fee
Paul Mancinone, an attorney/CPA writing for Accounting Today, notes that the lateness of the "fiscal cliff" agreement puts taxpayers at additional risk of identity theft (he recommends that clients file as early as possible). One reason--the IRS is still putting together forms and schedules, thus many taxpayers may have trouble filing before the end of February. In addition to early filing, Mancinone has the following advice: be wary of preparers who want a percentage of the refund as well as those who refuse to sign a return; look for an attorney, CPA, EA or RTP to prepare the return and ask specifically how the preparer will protect personal information before hiring him/her/them to prepare the return.
While a rogue tax preparer/identity thief would be the most unsettling of possibilities; sloppy work by tax preparers can also cause a lot of grief for both preparers and clients. The advice of Mancinone may seem routine for tax professionals (and remember that tax credentials do not automatically equate to ethical behavior), but clearly many people have been hurt by NOT taking Mancinone's advice.