The IRS is cracking down on fraudsters this tax season and that includes warning taxpayers about “return preparer fraud”. It’s unfortunate, but there are people who set-up shop each season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.
This tax season it is imperative that you represent yourself as a qualified, honest preparer and not raise any red flags to potential customers. Here are 6 ways to reassure potential clients that you are a competent preparer.
Don’t promise the moon
Everyone’s tax situation is different. While it seems like an easy marketing tactic to promise big tax refunds, it’s probably one of the worst things you can do. Not only does it set-off red flags, in most cases it’s simply not true. A good tax preparer can guarantee one thing: that their clients will pay the least amount of taxes legally possible.
Button up your digital presence
Consumers expect professionals to have some form of digital presence. A basic website with a professional email address is pretty easy to set-up these days. Using a gmail or other type of email can cause red flags to go up. Beyond having a website, consider setting up a LinkedIn account as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Promote your credentials
The IRS has been heavily promoting their Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. Are you on it? Are you an Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant, or Attorney? Do you have an IRS Record of Completion or one of our Chartered Tax Certificates? Promote your credentials on your website, LinkedIn profile, in your office and in email communications.
Along with professional credentials you should promote any organizations or associations that you are a member of. For example your membership to any of the national tax professional organizations. This shows that you are engaged and in-tune with the industry.
Another way to show competence and trustworthiness is to promote any positive ratings you’ve earned from websites like the Better Business Bureau.
Reassess your fees
The IRS has been warning taxpayers about tax professionals who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund. This is not only a poor way to base fees, it’s illegal. Make sure your fees are fair and competitive. For more on fees, check out our blog post: How to Determine Your Fees as a Tax Preparer.
Promote that you offer e-file
E-file is required of any tax preparer who prepares returns for 10 or more clients. It’s also the safest and most accurate way to file a return.
Offer a guarantee
Trusting a stranger with your financials is a big step. Make sure you offer some sort of guarantee that their return will be accurate. You should also offer assistance throughout the year in the event that the IRS contacts them or they have a question.
As tax preparers we are trusted with confidential and private pieces of our client’s information. This makes most people think twice before going to anyone to prepare their taxes. With so many scams out there, it’s important that you are presenting yourself in the most professional, qualified and trustworthy light as possible.