Nearly one-third of the complaints filed with the Utah Better Business Bureau against tax preparation companies claim that errors or mistakes were made in returns.
BBB analysis data indicated that the errors and mistakes frequently required the taxpayers to satisfy fines or added fees to rectify the problem.
Mistakes and errors made up the most common complaint category against tax preparers.
But 19.5 percent of the complaints alleged that he tax preparer was simply unresponsive.
Typically, the tax preparer did not return repeated calls or attempts by the complainants to get assistance, answers to questions or copies of tax information, pointed out the Utah BBB.
Many complainants noted that they were frantic as they faced filing deadlines or audits and were not receiving any help from their tax preparers.
Disputes about billing accounted for 19 percent of complaints to the BBB.
Typically, consumers were shocked when they received a high bill for having their taxes prepared or felt that they did not receive the level of service they paid for.
Almost 7 percent of complainants claimed the tax preparation company was rude.
Six percent of the consumers indicated that they did not receive refunds, continued BBB Utah. And 6.3 percent of complainants alleged that the tax preparer never filed the returns.
From 2005-2007, the Internal Revenue Service opened nearly 700 tax return preparer investigations.
In April 2006, the United States Government Accountability Office issued findings from a limited study of commercial tax preparation chains in major metropolitan areas, noting that all the returns completed in those offices were wrong in one way or another.
The report cited mistakes such as not reporting business income, failing to take the most advantageous education tax benefit, failing to itemize deductions and, in some cases, even failing to claim available deductions.
The BBB reminds Carbon County consumers that when the IRS detects a false return, the individual - not the preparer - must pay any additional taxes as well associated interest, fees and penalties.
In the end, the taxpayer is responsible for all information submitted to the IRS.
Many preparers provide quality services to clients. But the BBB encourages consumers to use the same caution in selecting tax preparation help that they would use in selecting other professional services.
Complaint data bears out the need for consumers to be careful and choosy.
When searching for help with taxes, the Utah BBB encourages Carbon County residents to:
Consumers should get referrals from friends and family on who they use.
Residents should also check the BBB Reliability Report on tax preparation services free-of-charge at www.bbb.org.
Look for credentials.
Ideally, preparers should be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney or an enrolled agent.
All three of the professionals can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including an audit.
Also, consumers should find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that holds its members to a code of ethics.
Don't fall for the promise of a big refund.
Consumers should be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition, and avoid any tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
Think about accessibility.
Many tax preparation services only set up shop for the months leading up to April 15, explained the Utah BBB.
In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, consumers need to be able to contact their tax preparer throughout the year.
Consumers should read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure that they understand the related issues.
The issues include how much it is going to cost for the service, how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected, and whether the tax preparer will represent the consumer in case of an audit, concluded the Utah BBB.