PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s that time of year again when taxpayers agonize over their tax returns. And, no surprise, nearly two out of three of us pay for outside help to do it right, but who we get to help is not a simple matter.

“Keep in mind, you are opening up a lot of very sensitive personal financial information to someone who might otherwise may be a complete stranger,” said Jenny Jenkins, an IRS spokeswoman.

Duquesne University Professor Bob Kollar, a certified public accountant, says picking a tax preparer is like picking a doctor.

“It’s your financial health, right? So you want to make sure you have the right person looking out for you,” said Kollar. “You want to make sure that person has maintained their certifications and their licenses.”

Here are some quick tips:

  • Check the preparer’s qualifications
  • Get their P-TIN or Tax Preparer ID Number
  • Know about their fees
  • Never sign a blank tax return

The Better Business Bureau says fly-by-night operations and tax schemes can trap those who aren’t careful.

“Often times people don’t conduct the necessary research they should do beforehand, but we’re available as a resource,” said Caitlin Vincas, of the Better Business Bureau.

Every year, thousands and thousands of people call the Better Business Bureau to check out the credentials of their tax preparer. That’s good, but here’s what’s bad.

Every year, thousands more call to complain about their tax preparation service.

And the biggest red flag of all is a preparer who promises a tax refund.

“For somebody to say we guarantee you a refund without having seen anything is impossible,” said Joseph O’Rourke, a tax preparer. “They just can’t do that, unless there doing something illegal on the return.”

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