To help taxpayers screen potential tax preparers, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance published a new checklist available at its Tips for hiring a tax preparer webpage. Taxpayers can use the checklist as a guideline when visiting or calling prospective preparers. The Tax Department and the Division of Consumer Protection also issued a consumer warning in light of the recent arrests of tax preparers across New York State. They urged taxpayers “to ask the right questions before trusting someone with their private information.”
- Are you registered with the IRS and New York State? Most tax preparers are required to be registered with both the IRS and NYS.
- What will be the fee for preparing the return? The fee should be directly related to the services provided and should not include a charge to e-file in New York State.
- How will I receive my refund? The refund should be directly deposited in your bank account, not into a preparer’s bank account. If you don’t have a bank account, consider getting your refund on a debit card.
- Will you sign the return? A completed tax return must be signed by both the taxpayer and the preparer.
Even if you hire the appropriate tax preparer, there are still many reasons you can fall behind on filing your tax returns. New York State offers a program to help you easily get up-to-date with your taxes, possibly even without penalty. Under New York State’s Voluntary Disclosure and Compliance Program, the State won’t impose penalties and won’t bring criminal charges against eligible taxpayers who “fess up” and pay. If you meet the eligibility requirements, to participate, you need only inform the State about taxes owed, enter an agreement to pay what is owed and continue to pay taxes in the future.
Additionally, if you owe back taxes, don’t let another year go by accruing more interest and penalties. You may be eligible to set up an Installment Payment Agreement to pay your bill over time or to submit an Offer in Compromise whereby the State will consider reducing your bill to something more affordable.