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What if I told you that the individual who prepared your tax return was anything but an accountant? What if your 2012 income tax return was filed without your knowledge? Or, better yet, what if you received an email notification from what appeared to be an IRS auditor that you were due an extensive refund by confirming just a few pieces of personal information?
All of the questions posed above are real world scenarios that may have happened or could still happen to you. In today’s word, the three circumstances questioned above probably don't surprise the average person. After all, identity theft and complex fraudulent schemes are at an all-time high. The purpose of this blog is to serve notice that while the general public will let out a collective sigh of relief on Monday, the official end to “tax season”, it is important to be mindful of what you filed, when you filed it, and what if any payment was made or refund is expected.
The number one issue identified by the IRS is identity fraud. A campaign is underway by the IRS to stop identity theft and refund fraud. Statistics have come out that the IRS has prevented over $20 billion dollars in fraudulent refunds for tax year 2012. The typical pattern for this crime is that an identity thief obtains an individual’s relevant personal information and uses it to file a fraudulent tax return to claim a refund. If you receive IRS correspondence, read it! There may be important information that could lead you to find out that a fraudulent tax return was filed under your social security number.
Do you know your accountant? Another common scheme that has been discovered by the IRS is that individuals will pose as accountants, collect accounting fees and then either not file the tax return, or file the return without review, baring only the taxpayer’s signature. Take a look at your 2012 income tax return. On page 2, did your preparer enter their firm information along with their PTIN and signature? If not, you may want to contact the IRS to confirm the filing of your return and you also may want to have a trusted individual audit your return to make sure it was properly prepared. Remember, you as the taxpayer are responsible for the contents of that return so long as it bares your signature. Do your due diligence on your Accountant!
Finally, you may begin to receive emails or letters that resemble correspondence from the IRS. Beware, if you are receiving notifications of refunds that seem too good to be true. They probably are. Notify the IRS of the correspondence received. Trust us; the IRS will be the first to tell you if you are not owed a refund!
The Bottom Line? Fraudulent schemes are becoming more and more complex every day. During a time of the year where money is on everyone’s mind, people and companies are out there looking to take advantage. Keeping a keen eye out for the issues noted herein can go a long way to preventing fraud and providing peace of mind.
HAPPY END OF TAX SEASON EVERYONE!
- Adam Abramowitz, Esq.