Beware of “Ghost” Tax Return Preparers
The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as “ghost” preparers. By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must sign the return and include their Preparer Tax Identification Number.
Ghost preparers, however, avoid signing the tax return. Instead, they often inflate any potential refund, print the return and instruct the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, for e-filed returns, they prepare but do not digitally sign it as a paid preparer to avoid scrutiny.
The IRS.gov Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers by type of credential or qualification.
Taxpayers and tax practitioners can report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their tax return without their consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.