This is the time of year many taxpayers turn to a professional to do their taxes.
You like to think the experts at a storefront tax office know what their doing, and will help you avoid trouble with the IRS.
But one Northern Kentucky woman learned why you shouldn't always be so trusting.
Every taxpayer's nightmare
Randa Brown is facing every taxpayer's nightmare: An appointment with the IRS for an audit.
"I got a call from the IRS, and they said they had pulled our tax return and needed to ask some questions and meet with us."
Brown, who has a small work-at-home sales business, thought she was covered by going to a seasonal storefront tax preparation firm.
That is, until the IRS found far too many deductions for her home office. "They put numbers in the wrong places and told us we could claim expenses that we couldn't," she said.
Randa says the office offered a "guarantee" against an audit, but she says she was never able to reach the owner who made the promise. She said"they would tell him to call me, but he would never return any of my calls."
We finally reached the franchise's corporate office, which promised to look into Brown's case.
Be careful of temporary offices
But Certified Public Accountant Crystal Faulkner, of the firm Cooney, Faulkner, and Stevens, says be cautious of seasonal storefront tax firms if you have a complicated return.
The problems is that anyone can call themselves a tax preparer, with minimum training. There simply are not enough licensed professionals to staff all the temporary tax prep offices that open every January.
Faulkner said "make sure you do your research, get referrals from others that you trust. Do a search if someone is claiming to be CPA to see if they really are."
She says ask a lot of questions before you agree to have a tax office prepare your 1040. Check their credentials at the American Institute of CPA's, www.aicpa.org.
Among her suggestions to protect yourself:
-Faulkner says be sure to get any guarantees in writing.
-Get the full name of your preparer, and ask about their background and experience. Are they a CPA? An attorney? What do they do the rest of the year? A manager's name is also helpful.
-Find out what happens in six months if you need help and the office is closed for the year. The IRS won't wait for the office to re-open next January.
That way you don't waste your money.
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