You might think that hiring a tax preparer to file your income taxes will guarantee a mistake-free return. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
In 2015, the National Consumer Law Center used mystery shoppers to test the work of 29 tax preparers. The results were surprising: Only two of the returns compiled by these preparers came in error-free. That’s bad news for a lot of people. USA Today reported in February that almost 79 million e-filed tax returns were completed last year by professional tax preparers.
And here’s even more bad news: The IRS says that if your tax preparer makes a mistake resulting in you having to pay additional taxes, interest, or penalties, you are responsible for paying these fees — not your tax preparer.
If your tax preparer does make a mistake on your return, what can you do? Here are five suggestions.
1. Contact your preparer
If the IRS sends you a letter claiming that there are mistakes on your taxes, call your tax preparer for an explanation. Tax preparers who do make mistakes might offer to pay any fees, penalties, or interest charges for you. This might not restore your confidence in their abilities, but it will help save your budget.
2. Pay the penalties
If the IRS is charging you a penalty for a tax mistake, even if that mistake was made by your preparer, pay it. You might be battling it out with your tax preparer in the hope of getting this professional to pay the penalty on your behalf, but the IRS doesn’t care. If it doesn’t receive its payment, you are the one who will face additional financial penalties.
If your tax preparer refuses to pay for its mistake, send a check to the IRS. Then continue your fight against the preparer.
3. Know your rights
Check any contract you signed with your tax preparer. There might be language in the contract stating what your tax preparer will do in the event of a mistake. Some tax preparers will pay the interest and penalties that result from a mistake, but not any extra taxes you might owe.
Some tax preparation firms, especially the big ones, might offer insurance that you can purchase for an extra fee. If you’ve bought this insurance, your tax preparer…