Tax scams can happen anytime of the year, not just during tax season. Three common year-round scams are identity theft, phishing and return preparer fraud. These schemes are on the top of the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” list of scams this year. They’re illegal and can lead to significant penalties and interest, even criminal prosecution.
Here’s more information about these scams that every taxpayer should know.
1. Identity Theft. Tax fraud by identity theft tops this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Identity thieves use personal information, such as your name, Social Security number or other identifying information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. An identity thief may also use another person’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.
The IRS has a special identity protection page (http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection) on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft issues. It has helpful links to information, such as how victims can contact the IRS Identity Theft Protection Specialized Unit, and how you can protect yourself against identity theft.
2. Phishing. Scam artists use phishing to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information. Phishing scammers may pose as the IRS and send bogus emails, set up phony websites or make phone calls. These contacts usually offer a fictitious refund or threaten an audit or investigation to lure victims into revealing personal information. Phishers then use the information they obtain to steal the victim’s identity, access their bank accounts and credit cards or apply for loans. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. Please forward suspicious scams to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit IRS.gov and select the link “Reporting Phishing (http://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing)” at the bottom of the page.
3. Return Preparer Fraud. Most tax professionals file honest and accurate returns for their clients. However, some dishonest tax return preparers skim a portion of the client’s refund or charge inflated fees for tax preparation. Some try to attract new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true.
Choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. All paid tax preparers must sign the return they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The IRS created a webpage to assist taxpayers when choosing a tax preparer. It includes red flags to look for and information on how and when to make a complaint. Visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro (http://www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Choosing-a-Tax-Professional).
For the full list of 2013 Dirty Dozen tax scams, or to find out how to report suspected tax fraud, visit IRS.gov.