The Internal Revenue Service is warning of a potential scam when it comes to filing taxes, called “ghost” tax preparers.
Filers should beware of anyone saying they can promise bigger tax returns– and then don’t sign or file the return.
“They may invent income so that you qualify for tax credits, they may claim fake deductions so that you qualify for a larger refund,” IRS spokesman Michael Devine said.
Ghost tax preparers are what they sound like– they ghost their clients after they ask for and are paid in cash.
The taxpayer is on the hook– and can get audited, fined, or worse.
“It could even cross over into tax fraud,” he said. “That’s when you get into criminal penalties.”
An April 2019 report by the U.S. Treasury Department found that the IRS “identified 3,529 tax returns with approximately $15.8 million claimed in fraudulent refunds and prevented the issuance of $12.2 million (77.2 percent) in fraudulent refunds.”
No matter who prepares the return, Devine encourages taxpayers to review the prepared return and ask questions about anything they don’t understand before they sign it.
Anyone who thinks they are a victim of a ghost preparer are urged to contact the IRS immediately.
Taxpayers should also look for a tax preparer’s P-TIN number.
The deadline for filing taxes is April 15.