RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The vast majority of tax professionals are honest and knowledgeable but, you only need to do business with a bad one once to become a victim of a tax scam.
There's still time to meet the April 15 tax filing deadline. Start gathering your documents and make sure you have them all.
Don't be too quick. Make sure you got it all. Some people file and then a statement comes in the mail the next day, so make sure you've got everything," tax expert Steve Brown said.
Brown says if you hire someone else to prepare your taxes, make sure they're not a fly-by-night operation.
"I would recommend someone who's been in the business for five or more years," Brown said, "who's there year-round. And I would also check their credentials."
Bridgette Outten with Goodwill said, "Just make sure it's a location that's there all year round, and not one of the popup locations, so to speak, that are only there during tax time, because you may need them after April 15 for help with your return. You want to make sure they use actual W-2 or 1099 as opposed to just a pay stub, and you want them to be able to tell you about the service fees. If they can't tell you what you're paying for, it may not be a good choice to use that tax preparer."
The Internal Revenue Service says be sure the preparer has an IRS Preparer tax identification number. Anyone who has one is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Ask if they have professional credentials, a certified public accountant or attorney. Avoid preparers who base their fees on a percentage of your refund amount. Never sign a blank return.
Never give any information over the phone or by e-mail. Don't give them your bank accounts. Some are asking people to put money on debit cards. Don't do it. The IRS doesn't work that way.
Remember, mailed in returns might delay your tax refund. Also, if you CALL THE IRS for help, your wait time on the phone could be about an hour.
Goodwill offers free tax filing services if you earned less than $53,000 in 2014. Another great resource is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA. Like Goodwill, they have IRS-certified volunteers. To find a location near you, call 800-906-9887.