The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) advises taxpayers they should avoid “ghost” tax return preparers. A ghost preparer is paid to prepare a tax return, but does not sign it or include necessary information. The department warns taxpayers to be aware they may be a part of a scam if a preparer won’t put their name on the tax return.
By law, anyone who prepares or assists in preparing federal and state tax returns for compensation must have a valid 2018 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax preparers are required to sign the tax returns they prepare on paper and include their PTIN. For electronically filed returns, the preparer must list their name and PTIN.
By not providing the required information, it may appear the return was self-prepared, which helps keep the preparer under the radar. Also, ghost preparers may promise a large refund and charge fees based on a percentage of the refund. Taxpayers need to know that preparers are prohibited from charging a percentage of a taxpayer’s refund as their fee.
Ask any questions before signing and filing. Ask the preparer to explain deductions, credits and wages claimed.
Ensure the tax preparer provides you with a copy of the entire return, including schedules if there are itemized deductions or credits.
Carefully review the tax return before submitting and ensure numbers are correct and schedules add up to source documents.
Is the preparer available year-round and will the preparer explain how the return was prepared in the event of an examination by ADOR or the IRS?
Did the preparer explain charges for services in advance?
It’s important for taxpayers to ask questions and carefully review their tax returns because they are ultimately responsible for what is filed, regardless of who prepared the return.
ADOR recommends taxpayers with concerns about their tax preparer should report it to the department’s “Report Tax Fraud Hotline” (602) 542-4023 or at azdor.gov/contact-us/report-tax-fraud.