What’s More Nerve Wracking Than Filing Tax Returns? …Getting Scammed!!!

The 2022 federal tax filing season is in full swing. Over the past few years tax season has given rise to a concern that many taxpayers find equally, if not more nerve-wracking as the task of getting federal tax returns filed. That concern involves how to avoid becoming a victim to any of the multitude of tax scams. Some people find out tax returns have been filed in their name under their SSN before they file. They find out their identity has been stolen. Or they fall prey to some scammer that calls them on the phone and demands payment for outstanding tax liability that they do not owe.

Tax Scams Are A Multi-Billion Dollar Business

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division reminds taxpayers to take extra steps to always protect their identities, and to be especially astute when filing their tax returns. In fiscal year 2022, IRS-CI identified $5.7 billion in tax fraud, initiated 1,388 criminal tax investigations, and obtained 699 criminal sentences for tax crimes. As you can see, the scammers are very busy. And, unfortunately, some of the scammers are people posing as tax preparers. In my mind this this the worst kind of criminal. Preparing and filing tax returns is one of the most stressful things U.S. taxpayers are required to do. Tax time is fraught with concern about getting everything right, making sure there are no mistakes, so the IRS doesn’t initiate an audit. And, when someone has outstanding tax liabilities, very often the concern is how to pay what is owed. To have unscrupulous tax preparers add to the problem is unconscionable.

Choose Your Tax Preparer Wisely

To guard against fraud this filing season, the IRS advises taxpayers first and foremost to choose a tax preparer wisely. Look for a preparer who is available year-round. Ask a tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have one. Don’t use a ghost preparer. They won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you. Also, keep in mind the following words of wisdom offered by the IRS.

  • Don’t fall victim to tax preparers’ promises of large refunds. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. All taxpayers must pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Don’t sign a blank tax return. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS.
  • Electronically file tax returns if possible. If they must be mailed, send them via a physical post office location. Using stand-alone mailboxes can make tax return and payments susceptible to mail theft.
  • Make sure any refund owed is received. Refunds should be deposited into the taxpayer’s bank account, not the tax preparers.
  • The IRS will not call threatening legal action. If a call like this is received, hang up, it’s a scam.
  • Don’t respond to or click links in text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS. They may contain malware that could compromise personal information.
  • Protect personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS.

To report suspected fraud to law enforcement, visit https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f3949a.pdf to submit form 3949-A, Information Referral.

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