If you're running out of time to file your tax return, you might be tempted to throw everything on a tax professional. So here are five tips from MSN Money to help you spot the ones who are more trouble than they're worth.
#1.) They promise a big refund. Not everyone who files gets a refund. So if someone PROMISES to get you a refund without completing your return, it could mean they're ready to file a FALSE return if necessary. Or that they're full of it.
#2.) They don't have proper credentials. You're supposed to ask for a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Properly licensed professionals all have them from the IRS. They have to be registered and certified, and complete yearly training hours.
#3.) Your refund isn't deposited into your bank account. Some scammers will tell you they need to collect your refund first, and then pay you out after they've collected their fee. An honest company charges you a flat fee and lets the IRS pay you directly.
#4.) They charge a percentage of your total refund. It should be a flat rate, period. Otherwise the preparer has an incentive to maximize your refund, even at the cost of taking bad deductions.
#5.) They have a bad record with the Better Business Bureau. Anyone who does your taxes has enough information to steal your whole life. The least you can do is make one phone call to see if they've gotten in trouble before.--If you don't want to do your own taxes, the best thing is to go with a big national company that's been around a long time. And don't wait until the last minute. That way, if something doesn't seem right, you still have time to look for someone else. (MSN Money)