NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM)Even after changes, brought on by the ‘fiscal cliff’ fiasco, pushed back the first day for filing, the tax season is now in full swing.  Now, in addition to warnings about identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is advising you to be on the lookout for phony tax preparers.

Erin Rodriguez of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests heeding the ‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is’ rule. “Don’t fall for the promise of big refunds,” she said. “Be wary of anyone that’s promising, ‘I can get you something larger than the competition.’”

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Each year, phony businesses set up temporary shop with the sole purpose of stealing your money. And although you, the taxpayer, may have legitimately tried to file a return, it’s ultimately your responsibility and you will be the one in trouble with the IRS.

Rodriguez said it happens all the time. “You hire the wrong person, they alter your tax return without you’re knowledge, and then come to find out, if the IRS catches it, you are then found liable.

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A lot of the deception is aimed toward people using the internet, and Rodriguez warns that a lot of the pitches look legitimate. “What consumers are reporting is that they’ve been receiving emails that appear to be from the IRS, but in fact that is a scam. The IRS does not initiate communication through emails.”

It isn’t just the tax return that could land you in ‘hot water.’ In a lot of cases the phony tax preparers aren’t just looking to charge a fee for filing a return, but are also hoping to her their hands on your social security number and bank information.

Here are just a few tips to help you choose a tax preparer:

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  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
  • Use a reputable tax professional who signs your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records.
  • Have you physically seen the business in years past? Will it be around to answer tax questions months, or years, after filing the return?
  • Review your return before you sign it and ask questions on entries you don’t understand.
  • Never sign a blank tax form.
  • Find out the preparer’s credentials. Is he/she an Accredited Tax Preparer, Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Licensed Public Account or Tax Attorney?
  • Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection and appeals.

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