Tax season is upon us and consumers need to be careful when choosing a tax professional. Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada) have teamed up to help consumers avoid any unpleasant surprises during tax time.
“Consumers and businesses need to understand that they are ultimately responsible for everything on a tax return, regardless of who prepared it,” says BBB President and CEO, Lynda Pasacreta. “Nobody wants to have to deal with income tax return problems because of a mistake made by the preparer.”
During tax season the media are full of ads about tax preparers. CGA-Canada and BBB would like to caution against those preparers who make claims that are too good to be true.
“It is important to vet the credentials of your tax preparer and have confidence in the services he or she is providing,” says CGA-Canada President and CEO, Anthony Ariganello. “If consumers and businesses do their research before hiring a professional, they are more likely to feel secure with the outcome.”
BBB and CGA-Canada have some tips for selecting a reputable tax preparer and avoiding those who may be problematic:
Check on qualifications. Ask tax preparers about their training, experience and knowledge of current tax law and whether they are members of a professional association like the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada www.cga.org/canada. You can find a registered public practice firm in your jurisdiction using a search tool on your desktop or via your smartphone or tablet: www.needanaccountant.org.
Learn about their service terms in advance. Find out whether they guarantee the accuracy of their work and will amend the return if there’s a mistake. And find out if they can be reached year round. If there is an error or you are required to undergo an audit, you want to ensure you can rely on them once tax season is complete.
Ask for references. Get referrals from satisfied clients.
Check with BBB. Visit www.mbc.bbb.org to determine if the tax preparer has a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.
Request a quote. Ask for an estimate of the preparation fee before authorizing the work.
BBB advises consumers to steer clear of tax preparers who sound too good to be true. Beware if they:
- Boast they can obtain larger refunds than their competitors.
- Pressure you to sign up for immediate payment of your refund. This involves a loan that typically carriers a high interest rate.
- Base their fee on a percentage of the refund amount, rather than the complexity of the tax return, or
- Don’t ask to review your records and receipts, or discuss whether you qualify for expenses and deductions.
Once your income tax return is prepared, make certain the preparer has signed it and get a copy and payment receipt for your records. Also review the return before signing it and ask for clarification of any entry you don’t understand.
Be on the watch for tax-related scams
Each year new scams surface online, promising tax refunds and other incentives to get you to part with your personal information. Be on the watch for the following scams:
Phishing scams. Never open or download attachments included with messages claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. Typically, these messages advise the recipient that they have qualified for a tax refund and need to click on a link to enter their information. The link takes the person to a bogus website and requires the visitor to enter personal identification. CRA will not contact you via email.
Identity theft. If you’re doing your taxes on your own online, don’t use a public wireless connection because even with encryption your information may be available to those on the network.
Malware. Refrain from opening any unsolicited tax-related email message, as some messages can install spyware or malware without your knowledge.
For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free. Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC has over 3,400 Accredited Businesses who have committed to the BBB Standards of Trust.
Visit us online: www.mbc.bbb.org
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Founded in 1908, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada serves 75,000 Certified General Accountants and students in Canada and more than 90 countries. Respected accounting and financial management professionals, CGAs work in industry, finance, government and public practice. CGA-Canada establishes the designation’s certification requirements and professional standards, offers professional development, conducts research and advocacy, and represents CGAs nationally and internationally.
Visit us online: www.cga.org/canada
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/cgacanada
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cgacanada