Most taxpayers know that they are entitled to a copy of their tax return for their records. It doesn't matter if the return is mailed or e-filed or if their copy is paper or electronic; they should be getting a file copy. So, knowing this, why do so many people fail to get copies of other work their preparer does for them?
Here's the situation. Taxpayer receives a CP2000 (or any notice) from the IRS and dashes to their return preparer. The preparer looks it over, looks at the return as filed and their notes and says, "Not a problem, I'll take care of this." The taxpayer is relieved and leaves. But a few months later they're back with a new letter on the same problem. And they get the same response from the preparer. Again, they leave. Relieved? Not like they were the last time. They may have questions but they don't want seem rude by asking them. Basic questions like:
- What did you sent the IRS (or state)?
- May I see a copy of what you sent?
- When was it sent?
- Can we call them now?
- May I have a copy of the new letter?
Taxpayers please listen; do not feel embarrassed about asking for copies of work done on your behalf. There are too many lazy preparers who will get you out of the office with promises they will forget about soon after you leave. There are good preparers who will put your work aside for a few minutes to finish something else and either forget about it or bury it under other work. The bottom line is that you are the one who the IRS will be holding responsible and you have to make sure that work being done on your behalf is actually getting done. Don't think you're a bad person if you call a couple of days latter to check if the preparer needs anything more from you and ask for a copy of the correspondence. A good preparer will understand.
Take special care if you sign a power of attorney for the preparer to act for you. Make sure you get a copy of the Form 2848 you signed and discuss with the preparer what they can agree to on your behalf. (Right now only a CPA, attorney, or EA have that ability but they still need to understand you want final approval.)
Finally for employers who let someone else handle their payroll, make them prove they did what you hired them to do. With so much of payroll reporting and deposits done online, it's easy to assume that everything is right, until you get the notice or phone call. All online transactions provide a printable report of that was done. Make it standard procedure to get a copy of each deposit and check the dates. The same is true for online filing of 941s and 940s. Even if you are using a payroll service, don't assume they are making the deposits. Make sure there is a way for you to verify their work. If they're honest they'll understand, and if not, there are plenty of good preparers out there looking for good clients.
It's your life and taxes. Make sure the people you hire are doing the job you think they are doing. We're not talking micro managing but a little due diligence.