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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Tax Preparation

Philip Taylor/Flickr, License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

With tax season just getting under way, some consumers rush to file taxes as soon as their employers provide a W-2. While you may get your refund fast that way, you could be missing important deductions or leave yourself in a position where you need to file an amended return.

Better Business Bureau advises consumers to research tax preparers and wait until they have all of their relevant documents, such as 1099s. Consumers also should ask preparers for their qualifications or certifications. In addition, ask them how long they’ve been preparing taxes and whether they have been subject to professional discipline related to tax preparation.

Once your tax return is filed, pay attention to any mail you receive from the Internal Revenue Service but be skeptical of emails or phone calls. The IRS does not initiate contact with consumers by phone or email. If the IRS informs you that a return already has been filed or that you received wages from an employer you don’t know, you could be a victim of tax fraud. If this happens, you may need to file your return on paper and visit an IRS office to resolve the problem.

Other BBB tips on hiring a tax preparer include checking credentials. Is the preparer a certified public accountant, a tax lawyer or an enrolled agent? Will the preparer sign your return and provide you with a copy? Does the preparer belong to a professional organization that requires members to adhere to a code of ethics?

Be wary of promises that you’ll get a refund. Until the preparer knows your situation, there is no way to know whether you’ll get a refund or how big it will be. Read the contract: Know what preparing your return will cost, what the fee covers and whether the cost changes if you have a complicated return.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.