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The IRS is cracking down on tax preparers
The agency wants to root out unqualified CPAs
Barclay Rushton of Rushton & Co. works Wednesday afternoon at his South Enota Drive office. For the upcoming tax season, the IRS wants people to be more cautious about who they have preparing their tax returns. Rushton says everyone doesn’t need to be a certified public accountant because all taxpayers don’t need that level of expertise, but those who aren’t CPAs need to be careful about giving out false information.

Not all tax preparers are created equal, at least according to the IRS.

“We highly suggest that taxpayers select a preparer wisely — someone that is creditable, knowledgeable and accountable,” said Mark Green, an IRS spokesman.

“Ultimately, the taxpayer is responsible for everything that is on their return, so they should select a preparer that is knowledgeable about the latest tax laws, willing to stand behind their work and who provides you with a copy of your return.”

According to Green, tax preparers aren’t required to have a license to offer their services, so that lends itself to any person being able to open a “mom and pop tax preparer service.” To cut back on the number of illegitimate tax preparers, the department is planning to send IRS agents posing as customers all over the state to ensure that tax preparers are in compliance with IRS regulations.

As a certified public accountant, Barclay Rushton understands that not all taxpayers need his level of expertise, but he does take issue with some noncertified tax preparers.

“I think having certification is good because then you know that the person doing your return has a certain level of expertise. But then, on the other hand, a lot of people don’t need that type of certification — what they need is an inexpensive way to get their taxes done,” said Rushton, of Rushton and Co. in Gainesville.

“I don’t have a problem with mom and pop businesses, because there is a need for that service. The thing that distresses a lot of accountants is the bad information people are receiving from (preparers) who are not really qualified to do what they are doing.”

When selecting a tax preparer, the IRS warns that potential customers should find out what service fees are before the return is prepared; avoid preparers that claim they can obtain a larger refund than other preparers; and select a preparer that will be around after the return is filed.

Just as the agency is warning taxpayers to exercise caution when selecting who completes their tax return, the IRS also wants filers to be equally careful about how they file their taxes. As tempting as it may be to go ahead and use your last check stub from 2009 to file your taxes, IRS officials are warning taxpayers that they may want to think twice about that.

“We caution taxpayers against doing that because your W-2 may not match the amount that is on your last paycheck stub,” Green said. “(That) could end up costing them more money because they’d have to pay someone to re-prepare their tax return.”