What Happens If Your Accountant Makes a Mistake on Your Taxes?

Couple on meeting with financial advisor.
Weekend Images Inc. / Getty Images

If you’re filing your tax return alongside a tax preparer, chances are you may feel confident they’ve got it under control. No matter how confident you may be though, it’s always possible for an accidental mistake to be made on your return. 

Learn More: What Is the Standard Deduction for People Over 65 in 2023?
Related: 3 Signs You’re Serious About Raising Your Credit Score

In a GOBankingRates 2023 tax survey, 24% of overall respondents said making an error on a form is their greatest tax day concern. If you file alongside a tax professional and they make an accidental error, who is liable? These best practices will help ensure tax filers catch errors before they happen.

Conduct a Review Process Together

Beth Logan, enrolled agent at Kozlog Tax Advisers, recommends tax preparers have a review process. This is where the tax specialist will prepare the return and review it with the tax filer afterward. 

In the event you are present during the process, Logan recommends making yourself part of the review. You should go line-by-line through the return alongside the tax preparer and have each line explained to you. While it may sound like extra time on the clock, this allows tax filers to learn more about the taxes they are paying. If the preparer is unwilling or unable to explain your return to you, Logan recommends finding and working with another professional.

Make Your Money Work

Take Our Poll: How Much of a Tax Refund Do You Expect in 2023?

Look Over Your Return

In addition to reviewing with a tax professional, you may look over the return as well. Make sure your personal information, including your name, address and Social Security number, is correct.

Check Line 34 and Line 35a

On your tax return, line 34 will show the amount of money you owe. If this amount is zero, check line 35a. Line 35a is your tax refund. Unless you apply some of your refund to 2023, which will be shown in line 36, the tax filer should receive this amount. 

If you worked with a tax preparer and did not receive this amount, Logan said your preparer may have taken some — and this is illegal. While Logan said it’s not common, it does happen, and tax filers will need to conduct their due diligence. 

What If I’m Working With a New Tax Preparer?

If your preparer is not the same person from the previous year, bring along last year’s tax return. Logan said the tax preparer will need to review this return and may find carry-over items that can help the taxpayer.

Make Your Money Work

What If Nobody Catches the Mistake?

If the tax filer receives a letter from the IRS, their first move will be to bring it to their tax preparer. The mistake could be that of the tax filer or the preparer. It might also be a question from the IRS or even a mistake made by the IRS. Moving forward, here’s what taxpayers should expect.

  • Preparer’s mistake: Logan said this should be fixed by the preparer at no cost to you. Any penalties should be paid by the preparer. “If the preparer will not fix the mistake or tries to charge you for the fix, you should find another preparer,” Logan said. “If the preparer is really unscrupulous, you can report them to the IRS.”
  • Tax filer’s mistake: Maybe you forgot to bring along a tax document or provided incorrect information. Tax filers who made a mistake where it is their fault need to pay to fix it and pay any taxes, interest and penalties. If the tax filer has a mistake but thinks it was made by the preparer — who says it’s your fault, not theirs — Logan recommends working with an EA or CPA.
  • IRS mistake/request: These are generally easy to resolve with the help of an EA, CPA or tax attorney. However, Logan said the tax filer will still need to pay for the cost even if the mistake is on the IRS.

Pro Tip: Don’t Rush

While there are a variety of activities that Americans would rather endure than do their taxes — including spending a weekend with their in-laws (25%) and going to jury duty (14%), as surveyed by GOBankingRates — it is in your best interest not to rush the process. Review your return carefully and make sure your tax preparer conducts a careful review too.

If you find you’re in a situation where the tax preparer is rushing the process, Logan recommends seeking out a professional who will take the time to review with you. “Taxpayers should look for someone who will help them understand their taxes, provide some tax planning and stand behind their work.”

Make Your Money Work

rock-component slug=”more-from-gobankingrates”]

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,002 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country on between January 30 and February 1, 2023, asking fourteen different questions: (1) How do you plan on filing your taxes for this year?; (2) When do you expect to file your taxes this year?; (3) How much do you expect to receive in a tax refund?; (4) What do you plan to do with your refund?; (5) Do you feel confident you are receiving all the deductions you feel qualified for?; (6) Do you believe your tax dollars are being spent effectively?; (7) Do you believe you are paying too much, too little, or a fair share in taxes?; (8) Have you ever been audited before?; (9) Who will/would use your tax dollars the best?; (10) How much is the standard deduction for a single filer (and married filers) in 2023?; (11) What concerns you the most about Tax Day?; (12) Do you expect your tax refund this year to be more or less than last year?; (13) What do you understand the least about your taxes?; and (14) What would you rather be doing than your taxes? (Select all that apply). GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

Make Your Money Work

About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

Learn More


See Today's Best
Banking Offers