If a person is paid to prepare or help prepare a federal tax return for somebody else, the preparer must have a valid PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). This must be included on the filed tax return and they must sign as the paid preparer. The IRS cautions taxpayers of “ghost” preparers, where the preparer has the taxpayer sign and mail the return, without the preparer actually signing it. In some cases, the preparer may even put their own bank account information on the return instead of the taxpayer’s.
The IRS urges taxpayers to review their return carefully if paying somebody to prepare or assist in filing their tax return. A few dishonest items by these “ghost” preparers include requiring cash payments and creating fraudulent deductions or credits on the taxpayer’s return. In the case of misconduct, taxpayers can file Form 14157 or 14157-A to report it.