You know you need help, but you're afraid that the person you turn to could be more of a hindrance. Unfortunately, sometimes this fear is well-founded. A few years ago, a Government Accountability Office look into commercial tax prep chains in major metropolitan areas produced the alarming finding that all the returns completed in those offices were wrong to some degree.
The Department of Justice's Tax Division regularly shuts down tax preparation offices across the United States when it finds the operators have allegedly filed bogus returns for clients. And yes, even big name, high-dollar help sometimes produces unexpected tax costs for clients.
The remedy: The IRS is hoping to reduce such mistakes with new regulations on paid preparers.
To make sure you don't end up paying for your tax preparer's mistakes, start with the hiring process. Investigate several potential preparers, and thoroughly check out each before you hand over your personal tax documents. Once you're a client, don't take every recommendation at face value. Ask questions, and make sure you understand the answers. Most of all, remember the adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."