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All You Need to Know to File a Complaint Against a Tax Preparer

Robert Deposada - Tax Preparers - April 25, 2024

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Contents

    Did the person who prepared your taxes do you wrong?  If so, you should consider filing a formal complaint against them. In this article, we focus on the following six main strategies when handling a complaint against a tax preparer: 

    1. Get all the information on the person you paid to prepare your taxes. 

    2. Try to communicate with the tax preparer directly.

    3. Use social media to communicate your complaint and warn other consumers.

    4. Leave reviews on platforms that will have an impact on their market.

    5. File a complaint with the government entities that regulate tax preparers, CPAs, and others in that industry.

    6. File a claim in Small Claims Court.

    First, get the background information on the person who prepared your taxes.  

    It is important to note that, if someone charges you to prepare their taxes, the IRS requires that they: 

    1. Sign your federal tax returns, and  

    2. List their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) on your federal tax return.  

    To check if the person you hired is enrolled in the IRS system, you can verify their status with the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers.

    If you hired someone to prepare your taxes, they will most likely be preparing both your Federal and State forms. Therefore, it would be safe to utilize Federal guidelines, standards, and regulations for any paid tax preparers.  

    As you gear up to file a complaint against the tax preparer, it's smart to look into their background to see if there is a pattern of complaints against them. You can check with:

    1. the Better Business Bureau

    2. your state’s board of accountancy

    3. your local CPA association, and

    4. your state’s consumer protection agency.

    Second, before you file a complaint, try to communicate with the tax preparer directly.

    Before deciding to escalate your complaint, it’s important to try and resolve the problem directly with the tax preparer. Directly resolving the complaint with the tax preparer will save you time, money, and stress down the road. 

    According to the IRS, if your tax return preparer did any of the actions below, you may want them to explain the reason for their action.  Otherwise, you may be able to file a complaint for misconduct against them:

    • Completed your tax forms without asking you first.

    • Changed your tax return papers without your knowledge.

    • Stated you qualified for a bigger refund by using the wrong filing status.

    • Made up people or things on your taxes to get you a bigger refund.

    • Made up or left out money earned. 

    • Made up costs, deductions, or credits to get you more money back.

    • Sent your refund to the wrong place.

    Start with informal communications: communicate your concerns through email or phone.  Make sure you keep copies of the emails and texts and also write down dates and times of every phone call with notes for each call (for example, “On April 18, 2024, at 10:00 am, called Jane Richards, the tax preparer, and left her a voicemail explaining to situation and asked her to call me back”).  

    If informally reaching out to your tax preparer doesn’t work, your next step is formal communications: If they ignore calls, emails, or text messages, it may be time to write a formal letter known as a demand letter. This way, you can outline your requests in the letter, and notify the tax preparer that you will seek further action if the issue is not resolved.  

    Here are some other reasons why you should consider sending a demand letter to the tax preparer:

    1. A demand letter signals that you are serious about the issue and willing to take action to resolve it. Many problems get resolved by simply sending a demand letter. 

    2. If you end up filing a small claims action (more on this below), the judge in your case may ask you at your small claims hearing if you tried to resolve the problem out of court. By sending a written demand letter, there is a record of your attempt to resolve the problem out of court that you can include in your evidence. 

    3. A demand letter will also help you organize your facts and evidence and create a timeline of events. This will help you remain consistent and factual as you go through the steps to resolve your complaint against the tax preparer. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter to a company? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Here is a video on how our demand letter tool works: 

    Third, use social media to communicate your complaint and warn other consumers. 

    If the tax preparer ignores your demand letter, consider escalating your issue by reaching out to them via social media. 

    Here are some tips when reaching out on social media: 

    • Start by sending them a direct message rather than a public post. If you don’t receive a response to your private messages, consider posting publicly. 

    • When communicating the problem, use a less confrontational approach and give them the opportunity to fix the issue before you “Twitter-shame” them. 

    • If you are dealing with a larger tax preparation company, a customer service representative is who will be responding to the messages. As you engage with a customer service representative and present your case, always be nice, no matter how angry you might be. Remember, the customer service representative is human, and empathy may go a long way in getting your complaint resolved. 

    • Manage your expectations. Don’t plan on getting a response in 5 minutes; you can realistically expect a response within a day or so.

    • If they don’t respond to your direct messages, consider posting publicly as this may get their attention. When you post publicly, they know that their online reputation is at stake as other consumers can see your warning. This may lead to your complaint getting resolved.

    Fourth, consider leaving a review. 

    If the tax preparer continues to ignore your requests even after you have tried communicating with them, consider also leaving reviews on all review platforms available like the BBB, Yelp, Trustpilot, and Google. Consumers tend to check reviews when engaging with different businesses and if the tax preparer cares about their online reputation, then this may be a powerful avenue of getting your complaint resolved. 

    Better Business Bureau (BBB)

    The BBB is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between companies and consumers.  While the BBB is not a government agency and can’t force the business to resolve your complaint, businesses take BBB reviews seriously for the following reasons: 

    • When you file a complaint with the BBB, you're making a note of what went wrong. This helps other people see if a company has had problems before. Knowing this can help them decide if they want to use that company.

    • If the company is accredited with the BBB and doesn't respond to a BBB complaint, the business’s accreditation may be revoked, and the complaint becomes part of their BBB profile.

    • If the company is not accredited with the BBB, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile.

    • BBB reviews provide other consumers with confidence when engaging with a company. Companies do not want negative BBB complaints.

    To file a complaint with the BBB, use the BBB’s online complaint form.

    Fifth, file a government complaint against the tax preparer. 

    When it comes to filing a government complaint against someone who prepared and/or filed your taxes, there are two main options: Federal and State government agencies.  

    Before you file a complaint, have the following ready: 

    • Organize your story. Write down what happened and separate your feelings from the facts. 

    • Create a timeline.  Present the events in the order in which they happened, using dates whenever possible. 

    • Write down why you are filing a complaint.  On the complaint form, you will be asked to describe the event or business practice that was misleading to you and why. 

    • Collect your evidence.  Prepare copies of contracts, letters, advertisements, sales slips, proof of payment, warranties, papers or other documents that may support your complaint. 

    If you sent the tax preparer a demand letter, you should refer back to your demand letter (remember, we have a tool that helps you write a demand letter if you haven’t done this already). 

    FEDERAL TAXES

    Your main point of reference at the federal level should be the Internal Revenue Service or IRS.  

    If you think your tax preparer acted fraudulently or improperly when preparing your taxes, you can report them to the IRS by preparing: 

    1. One of the IRS forms that applies to your situation, 

    2. A letter to the IRS providing more information on what happened, and 

    3. Any evidence papers or proof related to the complaint to the IRS.

    If your tax return WAS impacted and you received a letter from the IRS  

    File BOTH forms: Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer and, Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit 

    Mail the forms, letter, and all the evidence that prove what happened, to the address contained in that notice or letter.

    If your tax return WAS impacted, but you DIDN’T receive a letter from the IRS

    File BOTH forms: Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer and, Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit 

    Mail the forms, letter, and evidence, to the address where you would usually send your Form 1040 (review the list of addresses that the IRS provides based on your state).

    If your tax return was NOT impacted 

    Complete Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer

    You can fax (fastest) 855-889-7957 or mail the form, your letter, and evidence to Internal Revenue Service, ATTN: Return Prepare Office, 401 W. Peachtree Street NW Mail Stop 421-D, Atlanta, GA 30308 (don’t fax and mail). 

    Learn more about filing a complaint against tax preparers with the IRS.

    In addition to the IRS, there are other government agencies and non-governmental agencies that accept complaints against tax preparers: 

    Federal Agency or Association

    Helpful Links:

    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Submit a Complaint with CFPB

    National Association of Enrolled Agents

    National Association of Enrolled Agents Complaint Form

    American Institute of CPAs

    How to file a Complaint with AICPA


    STATE TAXES

    In addition to filing a complaint with the IRS, you can also file a complaint against a tax preparer with different state agencies. To do this, make sure they are licensed with the correct state board or agency where you are filing the complaint. 

    First, find out if your tax preparer is actually a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If they are, then you can also file a complaint with your state’s board of accountancy, which is the most common place to file a complaint against a tax preparer. 

    At the state level, the four main places to file complaints with government agencies and non-government agencies:

    1. Your state’s board of accountancy

    2. Your local Better Business Bureau (a private non-profit), 

    3. Your local Professional CPA association (these are non-governmental associations that CPAs are members of), and

    4. Your state consumer protection agency (you can find a 50-state guide on the USA.gov). 

    The following are some additional helpful links for some state government agencies and Professional CPA Associations:

    Arizona

    AZ State Board of Accountancy- AZ State Board Accountancy File a Complaint

    California

    Note: California is one of the few states to have set requirements for professional tax preparers. Section 22258, of the California Business and Professions Code, requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be either an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), CTEC registered tax preparer (CRTP) or an IRS enrolled agent (EA).

    Florida

    FL Department of Business & Professional Regulation- DBPR Online Services – File a Complaint

    Note: A complaint can be filed with DBPR if the services were provided by a Florida licensed CPA. If the services were not performed by a Florida licensed CPA, then the complaint should be made to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Learn if your tax preparer is licensed to work in Florida.  

    Georgia

    Illinois

    Indiana

    IN Department of Revenue- IN Dept of Revenue Report Tax Fraud

    Maryland

    Massachusetts

    MA Office of the Attorney General- MA Attorney General Complaint Form

    Missouri

    MO Board of Accountancy- MO Division of Professional Registration Complaint Form

    New Jersey

    New York

    North Carolina

    Ohio

    Pennsylvania

    Tennessee

    TN Department of Commerce and Insurance- TN State Board of Accountancy Complaint Form

    Texas

    Virginia

    Washington

    WA Board of Accountancy- WA Board of Accountancy Complaint Form

    Wisconsin


    WI Institute of CPAs- WI DSPS Complaint Form

    Sixth, file your case in Small Claims Court. 


    If sending a demand letter, filing a complaint with government entities, using social media, and reviews did not produce the results you wanted, consider filing a small claims court case against the tax preparer. Small claims court is often called the “People’s Court” because of its informal process, user-friendly procedures, and low cost. Unlike other types of courts, in small claims courts, people can bring disputes without the need for a lawyer. In fact, in some small claims courts, lawyers are not allowed to represent the parties at the hearing.  Learn more in our guide to small claims court.

    Author

    Robert Deposada

    Legal Educator at People Clerk. Robert has a passion for breaking down complicated legal processes in easy-to-read legal guides.

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