W.Va. AG Reminds Consumers to Research Tax Prep Services

Charleston — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminded consumers Thursday to be cautious and to protect personal information when preparing and filing their taxes for the April 15 deadline, particularly since some tax preparers offer remote assistance due to COVID-19. 

Those who choose a remote or virtual option must ensure they deal with a legitimate tax preparation service. They also must ensure the preparer uses a secure portal to receive the taxpayer’s sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, finances, birthdays, addresses and other items a scam artist could use to his or her advantage.

“It’s incredibly important for consumers to be mindful of how they handle sensitive, personally identifiable information and who handles it on their behalf,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “That means making sure that you work with the right person or business. Research their reputation, qualifications and be on guard for any phony or dishonest preparer who would jeopardize your personal information.”

Consumers should ask for the Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and check the U.S. Internal Revenue Service list found at https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf.

Legitimate tax preparers will ask for records and receipts. Additionally, they will never ask a client to sign a blank tax return. If they suggest as much, it should raise an immediate red flag.
 
Consumers should also ensure their tax preparer signs and includes his or her IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Federal law requires paid tax preparers to take both steps.

Other tips to consider if hiring a tax preparer are:

Research tax preparers online and/or seek a friend’s recommendation.

  • Make sure the tax preparer offers e-file. Anyone who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must do so electronically.
  • Make sure the tax preparer will be available after filing the return should any questions arise about the filed tax return.
  • Use a secure Internet connection. Never file a return via publicly available Wi-Fi.
  • File early. This can greatly reduce the risk of fraud since IRS records will show a filed return in the consumer’s name, thus giving thieves less time to file a false return.
Taxpayers who file through traditional mail should use caution and consider taking the mail to a local post office, as tax identity thieves have been known to steal tax documents from mailboxes.
 
Consumers who believe they may be the victim of tax-related identity theft should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.