CHICAGO (CBS) — As tax season kicks into gear, the Better Business Bureau is reminding taxpayers to beware of some popular scams, and to protect themselves from mistakes that could get them in trouble with the IRS.
Better Business Bureau of Chicago president and CEO Steve Bernas said his group has received thousands of complaints over the years about tax preparers, ranging from honest mistakes to outright scams.
“A lot of the complaints that we receive in a year are mostly from taxpayers making errors in returns, which usually results in a fine or a fee,” he said.
Bernas has some tips if you are using a tax preparer for the first time this year.
If you haven’t used a tax preparer before, Bernas said you should make sure to check them out and make sure they are legitimate before doing business with them, “not after the fact.”
“Check out the tax preparer ahead of time, and to make certain that you get everything in writing from them, and if there’s any promises, that they put that promise in writing,” he said.
Bernas said you should never agree to sign a blank tax return, even if the preparer promises to fill it out properly afterward.
“When you’re signing a blank tax form, you’re basically agreeing to everything on that form, and if you don’t know what’s on there, you shouldn’t be agreeing to it. You could run into trouble that way, or they could be taking advantage in some way,” he said.
He also suggested checking over your return before you agree to file it.
“So when you do sign the tax form, make sure it’s completely finished and finalized, and it meets your approval before signing; and never sign a blank tax form at all,” Bernas said.
If someone calls you claiming to be from the IRS and demanding immediate payment for overdue taxes, Bernas said that’s a scam.
The IRS usually contacts taxpayers by mail, and will never call to demand immediate payment by phone. The agency won’t call about overdue taxes without first mailing you a bill, and won’t threaten to have you arrested if you don’t pay immediately.
The IRS also won’t demand payment of taxes without giving you the chance to question or appeal the amount it says you owe.