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February 02, 2006

The IRS has offered its annual "Helpful hints when choosing a tax preparer":

* Be careful with tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.

* 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.

* Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of your tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.

* Review your return before you sign it and ask questions on entries you don't understand.

* No matter who prepares your tax return, you (the taxpayer) are ultimately responsible for all of the information on your tax return. Therefore, never sign a blank tax form.

* Find out the person's credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.

* Find out 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.

* Ask questions. Do you know anyone who has used the tax professional? Were they satisfied with the service they received? Tax evasion is a risky crime, a felony, punishable by five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Good advice, as far as it goes, but you should shouldn't choose a tax preparer without considering the


* Be careful with tax preparers who claim they have bigger refunds than you do.

* Avoid preparers who base their fee on the unused amount of your credit card borrowing limit.

* Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product.

* Use a reputable tax professional who doesn't sign his returns as "Brett Favre."

* Avoid tax preparers who do returns on street corners wearing backwards baseball caps or hooded sweatshirts.

* If your your tax professional prepares returns out of his car, the presence of cases of pseudoephedrine in the back seat is a classic warning sign.

* Don't use a tax preparer whose web site is hosted here.

* Don't hire this guy to prepare your return. Or this guy. Not this guy, either.

* You normally don't need to help a Liberian prince to recover his rightful inheritance to receive your tax refund.

You're welcome!

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