Trust your instincts come tax time

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DENVER, Colo. -- The height of tax season is here with only 15 days until the filing deadline.

But in the rush to get taxes done, the National Consumer Law Center and Consumer Federation of America warn not to compromise your refund or personal information.

The groups just released their annual Tax Time Report, saying taxpayers should be aware of unregulated preparers, lack of fee disclosure, and tax-time financial products that are manipulative.

The report contains a CFA poll stating 80 percent of the public supports paid preparers passing a government test. In the poll, 56 percent supported preparers undergoing special training but no degree and 31 percent would like to see a college degree in accounting.

"I have met a lot of people with master's degrees that I would never put in front of a client, even a masters in accounting," said Steve McDermott, owner of six Liberty Tax Service locations in Colorado. "You can have a master's in accounting and not be tax trained or certified."

McDermott would like to see tougher industry standards for tax preparers, but says degrees aren't the answer. His employees go through extensive tax-specific training.

"I do taxes, and I'm not a CPA," said McDermott. "I do taxes for CPAs because they know I'm a tax expert."

The report also warns taxpayers about excessive fees from Refund Anticipation Loans. They were eliminated in 2012, but the new report warns they are back, commonly disguised as non-bank, "no fee" services from payday loan companies.

McDermott advises taxpayers to question preparers before using them to file. 

"Compare it to talking to a doctor or a mechanic - question after question -- if you get a sense, this guy knows what he's talking about, and you get the sense of relationship -- like I trust this guy -- trust your instincts!"

Only four states, Maryland, Oregon, New York and California, currently have laws requiring preparers to meet education and training standards.