By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Many people look for help from professionals when it’s time to file their tax return. If you use a paid tax preparer to file your federal income tax return this year, 3 On Your Side reminds you to choose that preparer carefully because even if someone else prepares your return, you’re legally responsible for what is on it.

Tax season is now officially underway and whether you’re filing your returns online or through the mail, the Internal Revenue Service says there are things to consider when hiring someone to prepare that return for you.

Among them? First, check their qualifications. All paid preparers are required to have a what’s known as a preparer tax identification number.

Then check for any disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. You can do that in a variety of ways. The I.R.S. says for Certified Public Accountants, check with your state Boards of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar associations. For enrolled agents, check with the I.R.S. office of enrollment.

No matter which preparer you use, make sure any refund due is sent your name and deposited into your account. Refunds shouldn’t go into a preparer’s bank account.

Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers can. Any paid preparer who files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return. Finally, you should always review the entire tax return before signing, and never sign any blank form or return.

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