Watch Out for Ghosts…

Watch out for ghost tax preparers, SFS Tax and Accounting, SFS Tax

Ghost Tax Preparers, That Is!

The IRS has issued a warning against “ghost” tax return preparers.

These phantom preparers do exist… and they get paid to prepare tax returns .

When it comes time to sign the return, however, they won’t (and don’t) do it. They will not acknowledge their participation either in writing or electronically when they file the return.

That’s a huge red flag.

Ghost tax preparers can be pulling a scam on you.

By law, anyone who receives money to prepare your return must first have a valid PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) issued by the Internal Revenue Service. They should identify themselves to the IRS by signing returns they prepare, either digitally or on paper.

If these ghost preparers don’t sign your return and provide their PTIN, it looks as if you prepared your own return. They may actually write “self-prepared” on your return, or stick a label on your copy of the return so it looks as if they identified themselves, but the copy or the electronic filing they actually file doesn’t have this information.

Ghost Tax Preparers: But Why?

You have to wonder why theses ghost tax preparers don’t want to identify themselves.

None of those reasons could be good ones.

They could be looking to pocket the money they make from you. They may only accept cash, fail to give you a receipt and not report what you paid them as income to the government.

Or they could be trying to steal your refund by giving their own bank account information instead of yours on direct deposit forms.

They may promise a big refund, and even set their fee as a percentage of that refund. They could be filing a fraudulent return to get you that big refund so that the fee they collect is higher.

Ghost Tax Preparers: Protect Yourself

You can ward off ghost tax preparers.

First, do your homework.  Make sure you are going to someone who is reputable. Ghost preparers have been known to vanish after tax season is over.  So look for a local tax preparer with a year-round storefront and has been in business for a number of years.

Second, make sure there is a designation behind that name. In most states, anyone can call themselves a tax preparer. Look to see if there yours has an “EA,” for example, behind his or her name. An EA is short for Enrolled Agent, which is a licensed tax practitioner who has achieved technical expertise in the field of taxation. They are the only tax specialists licensed by the federal government and can represent you before all levels of the IRS. Your tax preparer should also have a PTIN which you can verify with the IRS.

It’s not just about the cheapest price when it comes to your taxes. After all, a mistake will cost many times more. Reputable tax preparers will not typically charge a percentage of the refund you will be getting. That’s called a conflict of interest.

Finally, look over your return once it’s prepared. Ask questions if you do not understand what is on the return.  Be sure to check also the bank account and routing numbers if you are getting a refund via direct deposit. Make sure the preparer is identified as such and their PTIN is listed. The bottom line is that you are legally responsible for what is on your tax return, even if someone else prepares it.

Don’t be a victim of ghost tax preparers. If you know what to look for, you’ll ward them off without a problem!


Jeffrey Schneider, EA, CTRS, NTPI Fellow has the knowledge and expertise to help you reach a favorable outcome with the IRS. He is the head honcho at SFS Tax & Accounting Services as well as the Enrolled Agent and Certified Tax Resolution Specialist for SFS Tax Problem Solutions.


Now What? I Got A Tax Notice From The IRS. Help! Defining and deconstructing the scary and confusing letters that land in your mailbox. Jeff defines and deconstructs the scary and confusing letters in a fashion that mixes attention to detail with humor and an intricate clarification of what is what in the world of the IRS.

The book is available in paperback and ebook on


For more on SFS Tax & Accounting Services, visit


738 Colorado Avenue Stuart, FL 34994


Phone: 772-337-1040




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