GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - This year, the IRS began accepting tax returns on Jan. 29, with nearly 155 million individual tax returns expected to be filed in 2018.

The tax deadline this year is April 17, giving taxpayers two extra days to file their returns.

Dan Hendrickson from Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers tips on finding reliable tax preparers and tax preparation services.

1. The Super Bowl has come and gone, and now everyone can get back to focusing on…their taxes. That’s right. The IRS began accepting tax returns on Jan. 29, and many people have already likely filed their returns either themselves with available software or by going to a tax professional.

2. And there are benefits to filing early and filing your taxes electronically, correct? Absolutely. The earlier you file your taxes, the lower your exposure to income tax refund fraud. This is where someone uses your personal information to file a return in your name. It can be a real problem. Luckily, the IRS has been taking steps to curtail this kind of fraud. And if you file your taxes electronically, you will definitely get your refund quicker. The IRS won’t even start processing paper returns until the middle of the month.

3. What should people look for in a tax provider? Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider. You should also make sure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Anyone who prepares or assists in preparing federal tax returns for compensation must have a valid 2018 PTIN before preparing returns.

4. How about warning signs? Red flags people should be watching out for when looking for a tax preparer? Be wary of tax preparation services that promise larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund. Also, never sign a blank tax return. No tax preparer should ask you to do that and if they do, don’t do it.

5. Any other tips? This year’s tax deadline is April 17. Be aware that some tax services wind down operations shortly after the April 17 tax deadline. In case of an audit or if issues arise, be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year. Also, be sure to get a copy of your tax return. The IRS recommends keeping copies of prior-year tax returns for at least three years.