If you’re expecting a tax refund, you might be looking forward to filing your taxes soon but be cautious of tax preparers who claim they can get larger refunds than other preparers. According to IRS investigators, some preparers may use your personal information to file falsified returns and may keep most of the fraudulent refund for themselves while leaving you on the hook. It’s important to note that the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of all information on a tax return, even if someone else prepares it. Individuals with fraudulent tax returns can face significant prison time as well as payment of back taxes with interest and penalties.
Here are some tips from the IRS being circulated by the Hamilton County Coalition to Stop Fraud, Scams & Abuse:
- Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.
- Use a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides you a copy.
- Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
- Check the preparer’s credentials. Only attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in matters including audits, collections and appeals.
- Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing educational resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
- Ask friends and family whether they know anyone who has used the tax preparer before, and whether they were satisfied with the service they received.
Check out any preparer with BBB or use BBB to find a list of BBB Accredited preparers. You may be eligible to have your taxes prepared by an IRS certified preparer for free. Details are available at www.makeworkpay.com.
Report suspected tax fraud activity by contacting Special Agent Doug Ryan in the Cincinnati office of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit at 513.263.3333. You can also use Form 3949-A, Information Referral. Whistleblowers may also provide allegations of fraud to the IRS using Form 211, Application for Award of Original Information, and may be eligible for a reward.