Horry County, SC (WMBF) - Three family members are now behind bars after the South Carolina Department of Revenue said they filed false tax returns and evaded taxes.
More than a dozen former clients now owe the state more than $60,000.
"You're taking their word for what they're doing," explained James McIlrath, local certified public accountant.
McIlrath says this could have been avoided by keeping several things in mind when choosing a return preparer. One important thing to know is the business's history.
You can look on sites like the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any problems in the past. It's also important to know how long that business has been around.
"The longevity can kind of give you a comfort feel on whether somebody's gonna be trustworthy and help you with what you need and not take advantage of a situation," he said.
If you aren't filing your taxes online, you should always take the time to sit down with your tax preparer. Treat the meeting like an interview, and go with your gut.
Also, don't get sucked in by prices, you get what you pay for.
"It's like everything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," McIlrath explained.
If you file your taxes online, you need to be extra careful. Each question you answer and deduction you make can change things dramatically.
"If you don't understand the question and you answer incorrectly, you can be causing yourself more harm than what you would like," he said.
Ultimately, no matter how you go about filing your taxes, know the buck stops with you.
"Whatever they file, you're gonna sign off on the bottom under penalty of perjury that the info is correct," McIlroth explained.