Five things to look out for when choosing a tax preparer

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Taxes can be challenging to navigate alone. When it comes to choosing the right tax preparer, a lot of your decision will depend on the complexity of your tax situation. Do you own a business? Are you married with kids? Are you freelancing or working several part-time jobs? Sometimes, it may be easier to let a tax preparer take the weight off your shoulders. 

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Mainland BC is reminding the public to ensure they find the right tax preparer for them and that find someone trustworthy and qualified for their needs. 

Local Example in Metro Vancouver

A Surrey customer submitted a complaint to BBB.org in November 2022 in which they claimed a tax professional in Surrey took their parents’ money but did not file their taxes. 

The customer says their parents had been filing with that same Surrey-based tax preparer for two years prior without a problem, that is until they received a letter in the mail stating they didn’t file their 2021 taxes. 

“Not only did she admit that their files were not sent in, but there was no accountability given for their mistake,” said the Surrey customer in their complaint submission to BBB. “I do not want her to take advantage of others who trust her to file their taxes on time. We paid for her service with the expectation that she would do it on time, which was not fulfilled.”

The Surrey customer claims the accountant yelled and hung up the phone when asked for a refund and to pay any possible late fees that her mistake may have caused.

Tax Deadlines

Last year, more than 31 million returns were filed in Canada, with 18.4 million of those filed electronically by tax preparers and tax professionals.

You will be able to file your income tax and benefit return for 2022 starting on February 20, 2023. The deadline for most Canadians to file their income tax and benefit return for 2022 is April 30, 2023. Filing your return before the deadline will allow you to avoid interruptions to any refund, benefit or credit payments you may be eligible for.

Since April 30, 2023, falls on a Sunday, your return will be considered filed on time if the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) receives it, or it is postmarked, on or before May 1, 2023. If you owe money to the CRA, your payment will also be considered on time if the CRA receives it, or a Canadian financial institution processes it, on or before May 1, 2023.

You have until June 15, 2023, to file your return if you or your spouse or common-law partner are self-employed. However, if you owe money, your payment is due on April 30, 2023. Your payment will be considered on time if the CRA receives it, or a Canadian financial institution processes it, on or before May 1, 2023. For more information, go to the CRA website

Here are five things you should consider when choosing a tax preparer:

Review the tax preparer’s credentials. Chartered Professional Accountants and tax attorneys are all qualified to represent their clients to the CRA. Other preparers can help you with forms and basic matters, but cannot represent you in case of an audit. Don’t be afraid to ask about these or other qualifications before you hire someone. However, if a matter is proceeding to tax court, you may want to consider retaining a tax lawyer, as this is a legal activity.

Vet your options. One of the best ways to find a trustworthy tax preparer is to ask your loved ones for recommendations, so get referrals from family and friends. Then, look out for the Sign of a Better Business and see if they have BBB Accreditation. You should also cross-reference tax professionals on BBB.org to see if other customers have left reviews or complaints. This will give you a clear picture about what you can expect. 

Think about availability. If the CRA finds errors in your tax forms or decides to perform an audit, will your tax preparer be available to help you with the details? Find out whether you can contact the tax preparer all year long or only during tax season.

Ask about fees ahead of time. Before you agree to any services, read contracts carefully and understand how much the tax preparer charges for their services. Ask about extra fees for any unexpected complications.

If things don’t add up, find someone else. If a tax preparer can’t verify their credentials, has a record of bad reviews from previous clients, or their business practices don’t seem convincing, don’t do business with them. Keep in mind that if you hire them, this individual will handle your sensitive personal information – information you need to keep safe from corrupt or fraudulent tax preparers. 

For more tax tips and resources, head over to BBB.org/all/taxtips

If you are duped or suspect you have encountered a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker or call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 to protect your fellow consumers.