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Originally published Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 10:02 PM

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Tax tip: How to choose a tax preparer

Most tax-return preparers are professional and honest and provide excellent service to their clients. However, unscrupulous tax-return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients. Therefore, it's important to find a qualified tax professional.

The Internal Revenue Service urges people to use care and caution when choosing a tax preparer. Remember, you are legally responsible for what's on your tax return even if it was prepared by an another individual or firm.

Most tax-return preparers are professional and honest and provide excellent service to their clients. However, unscrupulous tax-return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients. Therefore, it's important to find a qualified tax professional.

The following tips will help you choose a preparer who will offer the best service for your tax-preparation needs.

Check the person's qualifications: Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.

Check on the preparer's history: Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state's board of accountancy for CPAs or the state's bar association for attorneys.

Find out about their service fees: Avoid preparers that base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.

Review the entire return before signing it: Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 3949-A, Information Referral or by sending a letter to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Download Form 3949-A from www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-829-3676.

— Internal Revenue Service

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