For the second year, the IRS has released its list of the most common income tax scams, thereby alerting taxpayers to frequent ploys that surface during the height of income tax filing season. The 2016 Dirty Dozen Tax Scams are:
- Identity Theft
- Phone Scams
- Return Preparer Fraud
- Offshore Tax Avoidance
- Inflated Refund Claims
- Fake Charities
- Falsely Padding Deductions
- Excessive Claims for Business Credits
- Falsifying Income to Claim Credits
- Abusive Tax Shelters
- Frivolous Tax Arguments
The most common and frequently publicized scams involve various attempts to obtain (steal) your Social Security number, date of birth and other personal identifying information that is used in an array of global identity theft schemes. We have warned you about the top three scams in recent months. For example, earlier this year we distributed an “Identity Theft Alert” after becoming aware of a significant increase in clients becoming the victim of income tax return refund fraud.
Keep in mind—the IRS is never going to call or text you out of the blue without first sending you many pieces of correspondence alerting you about an income tax matter. And, they don’t call in the evenings! If you are not aware of an income tax compliance matter, and you receive a telephone call or message threatening to arrest you at your place of employment, sue you, threaten deportation, take your driver’s license away or summon the police, don’t panic and more important, don’t provide any information—it’s a scam!
In 30 years I have never had an IRS agent email me. If they don’t email income tax professionals, they aren’t going to email taxpayers. The IRS does not use email. Any email purported to be from the IRS is fraudulent. Don’t open it as it could contain a virus or other harmful stealth software. Simply delete it.
Many of the other scams involve duping you into believing that you can receive a larger refund with “a little help.” The alleged help is really a nice way of lying about income, deductions or credits—all in an effort to increase your refund.
Seek reputable and professional income tax advice. Never sign a blank income tax return and never associate with an income tax preparer that promises a large refund or offers to prepare your income tax return in exchange for a percentage of your tax refund!
Here are a few other last-minute reminders. Disregard advertisements indicating that you don’t have to file income tax returns because it’s a voluntary income tax system. Filing income taxes is the law. You have to file. Most of all don’t cheat. Seek professional income tax advice that will help you lawfully maximize tax deductions. Be honest.
If it’s “too good to be true,” take a step back and think for a minute. It probably is.
Frank A. Suponcic, CPA, CFE, CFF, is a partner in Skoda Minotti’s Valuation and Litigation Advisory Services Group where he regularly assists clients with fraud assessments, forensic investigations, economic damage claims, commercial disputes, divorce and labor relations. In addition, he frequently represents privately held business, nonprofit entities and individuals in an array of financial statement and income tax preparation and planning matters.
He can be reached at (440) 449-6800 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.