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text 2017-03-13 01:34
The Southbourne Tax Group: Beware tax preparer fraud, other ‘dirty dozen’ scams

 

If you’re rushing to get your tax return in the mail, take care when choosing your tax preparer. If you don’t, you could lose your refund and face fines or jail time if your preparer files a fraudulent return.

 

Tax preparer fraud was the focus of a March 1 alert from the National Consumers League (NCL).

 

“Getting caught up in a tax preparer scam will not just cheat you out of your refund and scam you into paying bogus fees, it can also expose consumer victims to other liabilities,” John Breyault, an NCL vice president, said in a statement. Those liabilities include hefty fines and even imprisonment associated with the criminal offense of filing a fraudulent tax return.

 

In February 2017 alone, tax preparers in New York, Nebraska and Louisiana were charged with tax fraud. And in 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice closed more than 35 tax return preparers’ operations because of fraud.

 

Tax preparer fraud also makes the Internal Revenue Service’s list of the “dirty dozen” tax scams for 2017.

 

How the scam works: Often, the tax preparer will falsify your earnings, claim credits for you that you didn’t earn or steal your refund by having it deposited into someone else’s account, according to the NCL.

 

To protect yourself, the NCL and IRS offer tips when choosing a tax preparer, including:

 

  • Check for his or her Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The IRS offers a tax preparer directory so you can check his or her credentials.
  • Refuse to sign a blank tax return.
  • Steer clear if your preparer doesn’t require you to submit your W-2s.
  • Avoid preparers who charge fees based on a percentage of your refund, or who claim they can get bigger refunds than other preparers.
  • Avoid giving your Social Security number or tax documents when you’re just inquiring about a tax preparer’s service. Otherwise they might file a fake tax return in your name.
  • Be sure to review your return before it’s filed, and make sure you get a copy of your return.

 

You also may cut your risk of fraud by getting free tax preparation help sanctioned by the IRS. If you make less than $54,000 a year, you likely qualify for free, in-person guidance through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs.

 

If you make less than $62,000 per year, you can get free online help through the IRS Free File program.

 

Tax preparer fraud isn’t the only thing to be on your guard against this year. Also making the “dirty dozen” are phone scams,  in which fraudsters call up and impersonate IRS agents. These fraudsters claim you owe taxes and try to get you to cough up cash.

 

Between October 2013 and January 2016, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration received nearly 900,000 reports of such calls, and more than 5,000 victims paid more than $26 million to the scammers.

 

The fake agents often threaten to sue, arrest or deport you if you don’t pay using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers.

 

Other frauds on the “dirty dozen” list are phishing emails, which look as if they come from the IRS or a tax software company. If you click a link, you land on an official-looking website and are asked for personal information, which the criminals use to create false tax returns.

 

Identity theft also continues to be a major concern, with bad guys using stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent returns. While the number of identity theft tax cases has plunged, almost 238,000 cases were reported in 2016.

 

“It’s the second year tax return fraud has decreased,” Breyault says, “but they’re not going to be able to catch all of it.”

 

Additional resources for business accounting tips are available here

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text 2017-02-23 09:18
The Southbourne Tax Group: Straight Talk - Be aware of the 'Dirty Dozen' of tax scams

The Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.

 

Today's topic: IRS warns of the "Dirty Dozen"

 

The concern: Every year, the IRS compiles their "Dirty Dozen," a list of common scams that can affect taxpayers at any time of the year, but strike more often during filing season as consumers finalize their tax returns.

 

How the scam works:

 

Phishing schemes Criminals pose as a person or organization the taxpayer trusts or recognizes. They may hack an email account and send mass emails under another person's name. They may pose as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait and provide money, passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can lead to identity theft.

 

Business email compromise (BEC) / W-2 phishing scam Cybercriminals use spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear as if it is from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their W-2s "for a quick review." But it's not real, and those who reply are sending employees' names, Social Security numbers and income information to scammers, who then file fraudulent returns for tax refunds.

 

Tax identity theft Tax-related identity theft involves scams with the intent to steal personal and financial data from taxpayers or data held by tax professionals. One such way is when a scammer uses a stolen Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and claiming the refund. It also happens when someone uses your SSN to earn wages, and sticks you with the tax bill.

 

Fake charities Groups masquerade as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. One type of abuse or fraud involves scams that occur in the wake of significant natural disasters. Scam artists impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scammers can use a variety of tactics; some operate bogus charities and contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.

 

Tips to avoid these scams:

 

File early. File your tax return as early as possible to avoid a scammer filing instead.

 

Be secure. Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.

 

Know the IRS. The IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by mail.

 

Be aware of your credit. Check your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure there are no unauthorized accounts.

 

Protect personal data. Don't routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don't leave it lying around.

 

Know phishing. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as a bank, credit card company and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.

 

Be informed. To see the remaining "Dirty Dozen" and find more tax-time tips, visit the IRS website.

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