Don't Waste Your Money: Research tax office credentials - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Don't Waste Your Money: Research tax office credentials before filing returns

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(WTOL) - This is the time of year many taxpayers turn to a professional to do their taxes. You like to think the experts at a storefront tax office know what their doing, and will help you avoid trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. One woman learned why you should not always be so trusting.

Every taxpayer's nightmare

Randa Brown is facing every taxpayer's nightmare: an appointment with the IRS for an audit.

"I got a call from the IRS, and they said they had pulled our tax return and needed to ask some questions and meet with us," explained Brown.

Brown, who has a small work-at-home sales business, thought she was covered by going to a seasonal storefront tax preparation firm.

That is, until the IRS found far too many deductions for her home office.

"They put numbers in the wrong places and told us we could claim expenses that we couldn't," said Brown.

Brown said the office offered a guarantee against an audit, but she said she was never able to reach the owner who made the promise.

"They would tell him to call me, but he would never return any of my calls," Brown said.

We finally reached the franchise's corporate office, which promised to look into Brown's case.

Be careful of temporary offices

Certified Public Accountant Crystal Faulkner of the firm Cooney, Faulkner, and Stevens, advised caution with seasonal storefront tax firms for those who have complicated returns.

The problem is anyone can call themselves a tax preparer with minimum training. There simply are not enough licensed professionals to staff all the temporary tax preparation offices that open every January.

Faulkner said, "Make sure you do your research. Get referrals from others that you trust. Do a search if someone is claiming to be CPA to see if they really are."

Faulkner suggested asking a lot of questions before agreeing to have a tax office prepare a 1040. Check their credentials at the American Institute of CPA's.

Among her suggestions to protect yourself:

Faulkner said to be sure to get any guarantees in writing.

Get the full name of the preparer, and ask about their background and experience. Are they a CPA? An attorney? What do they do the rest of the year? A manager's name is also helpful.

Find out what happens in six months if you need help and the office is closed for the year. The IRS will not wait for the office to re-open next January.

That way you don't waste your money.

Read more Don't Waste Your Money stories here.

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