Accountingtoday.com reported Click Here to Read Full Article that a seasonal tax preparer hired by Liberty Tax in Bigfork, MT received a five-year sentence which will be served with the Montana Department of Corrections. The preparer, using information obtained as a tax preparer, illegally transferred thousands of dollars from a Liberty Tax customer’s account to her own account.
Why is this relevant tax news? Individual taxpayers need to do their due diligence when hiring a tax preparer. First, the big tax preparation firms hire seasonal tax preparers to prepare tax returns during the height of the tax season. How these seasonal preparers become knowledgeable about the complex Internal Revenue Code during their 2-3 week part-time training sessions is beyond our imagination. And yet, millions of taxpayers have their returns prepared by these large franchise firms. What is the attraction? Is it the perceived low tax preparation cost? Is it the mass marketing? Second, do you know who is preparing your tax return andwho has access to your confidential tax information? In this particular case, Liberty Tax did not run a background check on the preparer prior to hiring her. “The local office owner reportedly said that Albertson [the preparer] didn’t disclose her criminal history on her job application.” Perhaps she didn’t disclose her criminal background because she was on probation for a felony charge and had another charge of charging more than $50,000 in stolen credit cards moving through the court system. I find the Liberty Tax owner’s response humorous, but sad. “We have never and will never compromise in any way. We would never hire anybody that we had any idea that they have a criminal record.” That’s great! So if the applicant admits they have a criminal record, they won’t be hired. And if hired because they didn’t admit that they have a criminal record and they commit a crime while employed by Liberty Tax, they will be fired.
The valuable lesson to be learned is that whether you engage one of the big franchise tax preparation firms, an Enrolled Agent, CPA or attorney to prepare your tax return, do not assume that they are qualified tax professionals. You need to do your due diligence to ensure that they are experienced tax professionals with high moral standards, are licensed, and have a tax background.
If you want to learn more about tax preparation services or tax planning strategies, we invite you to call 610-594-2601 today to make an appointment at our Exton PA CPA office to discuss your situation. You can also schedule a consultation at Click Here.