Would you believe that it’s both?
Each year, the Internal Revenue Service releases a list of the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams.
Healthy skepticism, relentless guarding of your personal information, and adherence to the rules can save you a lot of trouble as well as money.
This year’s list, shown below, includes classic scams as well as some new twists.
1. Identity Theft
Tax time brings extra activity among thieves looking for Social Security numbers and other personal information that allows them to falsely claim refunds (not to mention running up bills and draining bank accounts). Be very protective of your personal information.
The IRS does not e-mail you or direct you to websites regarding any bill without prior contact. Do not be fooled by e-mails encouraging you to click on links to a site in reference to your tax bill; the website may be a fake, designed to gain your personal information.
3. Phone Scams
Con artists sometimes impersonate IRS agents and threaten arrests, deportation, and other unpleasant outcomes unless a bill is paid immediately over the phone. No matter what horrible things you think about our tax system, the IRS does not do business this way. Never give out your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call and are sure you are dealing with a real IRS agent.
4. Preparation Fraud
Some tax preparers bend the rules in order to get you the highest refund possible. Unfortunately, once you sign and file the return, you are responsible for any errors. If you choose to have others do your taxes, be sure to use a reputable tax preparer.
5. Offshore Tax Avoidance
The IRS is cracking down on hiding money offshore to avoid tax payments. If you find yourself in this position, use the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) to make things right — or run the risk of severe penalties.
6. Inflated Refunds
Anyone who promises you a big refund without looking at your records first should be avoided. If it sounds too good to be true, guess what? It is.
7. Fake Charities
Before making your donation, check the IRS website to make sure that your donation is going to a qualified charitable organization. Look for knockoff organizations with names, websites, and logos that are similar to well-known legitimate organizations.
8. Padded Deductions/Credits
It’s really simple — do not claim larger deductions than you can justify through receipts or other paperwork. Similarly, make sure you meet eligibility requirements for any tax credits before attempting to claim them.
9. Excessive Business Credit Claims
The above advice goes for businesses as well. Do not claim credits like the research or fuel tax credit unless your business meets the qualifications for those credits.
10. Falsifying Income for Credits
Scam artists can suggest bending the income rules to qualify for tax credits that target lower-income taxpayers, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Do not give in to their claims. Never falsify income on a tax return for any reason, regardless of what anybody tells you.
11. Abusive Tax Shelters
By using complicated but authoritative-sounding language, tax scammers can fool people into thinking tax shelters are legitimate when they are not. Seek independent confirmation and outside advice on any scheme designed to limit or avoid taxes.
12. Frivolous Arguments
The IRS is too busy to waste time listening to your claims of being a sovereign nation and therefore enjoying immunity from taxes, or any similar outlandish claims on tax returns. Frivolous tax returns incur a $5,000 penalty, and failure to file penalties can end up being even worse.
Source: Palm Beach Post