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Experts warn taxpayers about risks of unlicensed tax preparers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- 

With tax filing season in full swing, experts at Notre Dame Law School are advising taxpayers to look into the qualifications of any tax preparer used.

The IRS does not require any particular licensing to tax return preparers. The director of Notre Dame Law School's Tax Clinic, Patrick Thomas, says because no licensing requirements exist, the vast majority of tax return preparers are unlicensed. 

Thomas is a licensed Indiana attorney, and says just because someone doesn't have a license doesn't mean they are not qualified. But taxpayers should check the credentials, experience and pricing of the tax preparer before having taxes prepared. 

To be safe,Thomas suggests to ask for the price of the tax return preparation up front. 

"My general rule of thumb is that if you have a relatively simple return, the higher the fee that you're paying, the more likely it is that you're going to run into trouble with the IRS," said Thomas. So that's one important thing, just getting that fee up front, making sure it's a reasonable fee and matches the expertise, credentials and experience of that tax return preparer."

He says to also always review the return before sending it in. 

And with the new tax law, Thomas says things could get complicated for tax preparers.

Most of the rules in the new law will not take effect until next tax season. But Thomas says the new rules and regulations could be a challenge for all tax preparers as they work to figure those regulations out. 

"It's going to be really complicated I think next year when we're looking at all these changes occurring, yet we have the vast majority of tax preparers who maybe don't have the most expertise that you would want to see for someone who's handling this very important issue for you," said Thomas. 

The Tax Clinic at Notre Dame does not provide tax preparation services. However, Thomas says they are willing to answer questions about filing taxes. 

More information about the Tax Clinic, including contact information, can be found here

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