Tax season is right around the corner which for some can bring stress, but for us here at Eliseo CPA, PLLC, the best Charlotte accountant, we are getting excited at our accounting firm! There can be a lot of prep that goes into getting ready for tax season, like the reams of documents you get from every entity you reviewed online in the past year. Something else you’ll inevitably come across are phone calls or fake notices from the IRS to scam you out of more of your hard-earned money. Below is a list of common scams that occur around tax season that we want you to be aware of.
#1 Email Phishing
Be wary of unexpected emails from the IRS promising refunds or threatening to collect. They are FAKE. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. They still require faxes and snail mail for 100% of their business. If you get anything electronically from the IRS, it’s almost definitely a scam. Submit to these scammers and they will use your personal information to commit identity theft and fraud.
#2 Phone Scams
Scammers impersonating IRS agents may make aggressive calls demanding money or offering a refund. Why offer a refund? Because if you provide banking information or “cash a check and write them one” it will end poorly for you. With your banking info they can clean you out. Scammers have gotten more sophisticated and can now even alter their caller ID information to appear as if they're calling from an IRS office. As a reminder, the first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually via mail. Next time you get a call from someone impersonating the IRS have a little fun with them instead of getting stressed out. Might as well get some entertainment for your time!
#3 Fake Charities
After natural disasters it's common for scammers to impersonate charities; some even contact victims, claiming to be with the IRS. These groups often have names similar to organizations we have heard of. Human Fund anyone? Don't give out personal financial information or Social Security numbers, or cash, to an organization that you don’t have 100% confidence in. This IRS website search feature allows you to look up genuine charities. Remember, only charitable contributions made to 501(c)3 charities qualify as an itemized deduction (that’s so 2017).
#4 Tax Preparer Fraud
Free or below market value tax preparers are probably too good to be true. Always confirm the PTIN of your tax preparer along with their qualifications before hiring them. CPAs and Attorneys will be required by law to provide their licensing state and license number which you can verify on that state’s governing professional body’s website. Or you could make the decision to hire the best accountant in Charlotte and let us handle any of the hard stuff!
#5 Identity Theft
One of the most common identity theft scams involves filing tax returns using stolen Social Security numbers. Protect your personal data and check your credit report annually to make sure you haven't been targeted. If you feel your information has been compromised you should inform your tax preparer when you schedule to have your returns prepared & filed. Additional steps may be necessary to file your tax returns.
#6 Inflated Refunds
Beware of tax preparers who ask you to sign a blank check, promise big refunds before looking at your records, or charge fees based on a percentage of your refund (that last one is illegal). These scammers may file a false return in your name and take your refund or they may push you to claim false benefits and get you in hot water with the IRS. ALWAYS REVIEW YOUR TAX RETURNS BEFORE FILING! You are ultimately responsible regardless of who prepares the returns. The IRS can usually tell when you’re trying to defraud them too (whether intentional or accidentally).
#7 Verification Requests
Don't be fooled by scammers asking you to "verify" your W-2 or personal information. Some may ask you to upload a picture of your forms. The only time that the IRS would request ID verification would be if they were concerned about a suspicious tax return with a real taxpayer's name and/or Social Security number. lf that's the case, they would generally send a Letter 507IC. That’s right, unless they start changing their bureaucratic document numbers, we’ve given you the exact letter template that you would receive.
As a general rule, always stay alert and beware of scammers, especially around tax time. Keep your personal and financial information secure and be on the lookout for any questionable situations. Even if you think “my information is already out there somewhere”, why not be a little cautious? If you’re ever unsure you can always come to us at Eliseo CPA, PLLC with any questions or concerns; we work with businesses and individuals with our accounting services at our location in Charlotte.