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Updates on Trump tariffs and his Supreme Court nominee. Also on the Wednesday rundown: New Hampshire in the news in a clean energy report; and doctors address the rise of AFib – a serious and sometimes invisible cardiac issue.

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Who Does Your Income Taxes?

February 15, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - At income tax time, keeping yourself honest is one thing - keeping your tax preparer honest is just as important. Unlicensed preparers who may not be up-to-date on tax law changes, and scam artists trying to steal money and identities, are just two of the perils. In Oregon, anyone who charges money for preparing tax forms must be licensed, because taxpayers are handing over their Social Security and bank account numbers, investment information and more to their tax preparer.

Richard Panick with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says filling out the form should be a partnership based on trust.

"Don't ever sign a blank tax return and then leave the office. Be aware that you don't necessarily want to do business with someone who is basing their fee on a percentage of the refund they're promising they can get for you."

There are about 4,000 licensed tax preparers in Oregon. Panick says bogus tax preparers can be identity thieves or will make expensive mistakes to try to increase a person's refund. He also says e-mail messages claiming to be from the IRS are definitely scams; the agency never initiates contact with a taxpayer by e-mail.

Individuals and small businesses with tax returns that are fairly simple can get them done for free at an Tax-Aide site. Almost 1,200 Oregonians have received training as Tax-Aide volunteers, according to volunteer coordinator Gwen Williams.

"You know when you come to a Tax-Aide site that your volunteer has been certified and has passed the test. That's not necessarily true of every other place you might have your return done."

Anyone can use the Tax-Aide program, not just senior citizens or AARP members, Williams notes. About 150 Tax-Aide sites exist around the state; to locate them by zip code, go to www.AARP.org/taxaide.

To check a preparer's license status with the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners, go to www.oregon.gov/OTPB.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR