Three Tax Preparer Scams
By Steven A Leahy
My last several posts addressed who should and shouldn’t prepare their own tax returns. Remember, for the majority of people, preparing your own return makes sense; it may save you money, allows you to maintain control and may increase your understanding of your financial situation. But preparing a return isn’t right for everyone.
In my office we have run into three common tax preparer scams that can raise red flags with the IRS. First, the most common: promises of large refunds. Second, the 1099 OID scam and finally, the ID theft scam.
The most popular tax preparation scam involves the tax preparer promising larger returns than other tax preparers. Many of these preparers charge a very high fee, or a percentage of the refund. Both of these fee structures should alert you that something is amiss. They achieve these high refunds by playing with your tax return numbers. They may include income that was never earned, claiming expenses you did not pay, or otherwise manipulating the tax return to qualify for earned income tax credits you are not qualified for.
The second scam involves filing false 1099 OID (Original Issue Discount) forms. The scam artist convinces the taxpayer that there is a secret fund held by the Treasury Account for an amount equal to the face amount of any debt they hold, including credit card and mortgage debt. To lend legitimacy to the scam, the scammer contends the government went bankrupt in 1933 and made all Americans chattel of the government’s creditors at birth, evidenced by their birth certificate. The scammer alleges that the government guarantees all your debts and the taxpayer need only apply through their tax return to access the hidden account.
By completing their tax returns and including 1099 OID for the full amount of all debt, including tax debt, sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The real problem with this scam is – it works! The IRS sends the taxpayer a large refund check. The check tends to confirm the legitimacy of the scam. After much of the funds have been spent, the IRS comes looking to the taxpayer and the funds received from the fraudulent scheme.
Taxpayers will be on the hook for these first two scams, because they sign the return under penalty of perjury. These scams can lead to significant penalties and interest, and the possibility of criminal prosecution. So, before you sign a return, review your tax return, ask questions about entries you don’t understand – and NEVER sign a blank return. A reputable tax preparer will sign the tax return and provide you a copy.
Finally, let’s review identity theft and tax return preparation. There are two forms of identity theft to worry about: tax fraud through the use of identity theft and the tax return preparer using your personal information after preparing your tax return. Tax fraud through the use of identity theft tops the IRS’s list of top tax scams. This type of fraud occurs when someone uses a taxpayer’s personal information to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.
The second type of identity theft is when your tax preparer uses your personal information to obtain credit in the taxpayer’s name, after the taxpayer willing provided the tax preparer with all the information they need to commit fraud. The IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on identity related cases.
The lesson here is to know your tax return preparer. If you are considering hiring a tax professional to complete your 2014 tax return, consider giving Opem Tax Resolutions and The Law Office of Steven A. Leahy, PC a call. We prepare old unfiled tax returns, as well as current returns. So, if you are a number of years behind in your filing, we can help get you in compliance with the IRS. Call (312) 664-6649 today and ask Bonnie to set up a time to talk me about your tax returns.
If you have a ongoing IRS problem – installment agreement, recent offer-in-compromise or currently not collectible status I recommend the IRS Protection Plan offered by Opem Tax Resolution and the Law Office of Steven A. Leahy, PC. This program anticipates the tax compliance requirements including, timely tax preparation, on-going IRS monitoring, resolution of IRS actions (cancellation of installment agreements or currently not collectible status and defaulting an offer in compromise). In addition, developing a relationship with a tax team will give you access to tax planning to avoid IRS problems in the future and minimize your tax burden.