"We have what it takes to take what you have." ~ Suggested IRS motto
The Internal Revenue Service annually publishes its Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. Here are the first Dirty Half-Dozen for 2017.
"Phishing" victims are tricked by unsolicited e-mail or fake websites into providing personal and financial information - which is then used for identity theft.
The IRS does not use e-mail, texts, or Facebook to contact taxpayers. Forward any unsolicited fake e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Phone Scams
Phone scammers are thieves who use deception to steal your money. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment and threaten "arrest" of a taxpayer.
If you get an aggressive phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and threatening arrest, deportation, or other things, get the call-back number, hang up, and call your local police or sheriff's office and make a report.
- Identity Theft
Identity theft happens when your name or Social Security number is used to file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund.
To report and recover from identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission's helpful website at identitytheft.gov.
- Return Preparer Fraud
More than half of all taxpayers hire tax professionals to prepare their tax returns. You are responsible for what is filed, so only use tax preparers who sign the returns they prepare and enter their IRS "Preparer Tax Identification Numbers" (PTINs).
- Fake Charities
After natural disasters, scammers pretend to be charities and contact people by phone or e-mail to solicit money or financial information. Watch out! Criminals may pose as IRS agents to offer non-existent tax refunds. Disaster victims can call the IRS at 1-866-562-5227.
- Inflated Refund Claims
Beware! Claiming unearned income, or non-existent expenses, in order to secure larger refundable credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, could have serious civil and criminal consequences.
Next: The second "Dirty Half-Dozen!"
James B. (Jim) Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. Call (615) 452-9200 to suggest topics for future columns.