CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is reminding consumers to research the tax preparer or agency they will use to prepare their taxes as the July 15 filing deadline approaches.

The Internal Revenue Service estimates more than half of taxpayers hire a professional when it comes time to file their return.

“It pays to be careful and to do your research,” Morrisey said. “Most tax preparers are ethical, competent and professional. Those who are not, though, can end up costing you not only a portion of your refund, but perhaps all of your personal, identifiable information.”

To protect themselves from phony or dishonest tax preparers, consumers should ask for the Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), ensure the number’s validity and check the U.S. Internal Revenue Service list found at

Legitimate tax preparers will ask for records and receipts. Additionally, they will never ask a client to sign a blank tax return. If they suggest as much, it should raise an immediate red flag.

If a preparer promises a refund no matter what, that should present another red flag.

Consumers also should make sure tax preparers sign and include their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Federal law requires paid tax preparers to take both steps.

Other tips to consider if hiring a tax preparer are:

Research tax preparers online, through the Better Business Bureau and/or from friends’ recommendations to ensure a good review.

Make sure the tax preparer offers e-file. Anyone who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must do so electronically.

Make sure the tax preparer will be available after filing the return should any questions arise about the filed tax return.

Taxpayers who file through traditional mail should use caution, as tax identity thieves have been known to steal tax documents from mailboxes and send legitimate-looking emails to phish for personal information.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of tax-related identity theft can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at

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