Tax scams to avoid during tax time

Consider these suggestions to help you avoid some of the most common tax scams.

It is time to file taxes and once again, taxpayers must be on the lookout for tax scams. The approach may be different but all scams are devised to steal valuable information or money from the consumer. Taxpayers should be wary of any promise that seems too good to be true.

First of all, taxpayers should employ reputable tax agencies or preparers to complete and file their returns. Avoid tax preparers that promise a large refund, or whose fees are based on a percentage of the refund. Paid tax preparers must have PTINs (Preparer Tax Identification Numbers) and sign each tax return that they have prepared.

Consumers must remember that they are ultimately responsible for the information in their tax returns. They are liable for any mistakes or false information found. Taxpayers should review all of the forms in the return to ensure accuracy. Returns should not be filed or signed before taxpayer approval is given. Taxpayers should ask questions and understand the contents of the return.

Criminals may impersonate the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and call unsuspecting consumers to demand immediate tax payments. Taxpayers who receive these threatening phone calls should hang up, and report the incident to the IRS. The IRS does not ask for credit or debit card information over the phone, nor do they threaten taxpayers with deportation or driver license suspension. Initial contact from the IRS is usually by mail. A taxpayer can also call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to discuss payment issues.

Taxpayers should ignore unsolicited emails that look like they were sent from the IRS. These fraudulent emails are attempts made by criminals to get valuable information that can be used in identity theft. Consumers should report these emails to the IRS. Remember, initial contact from the IRS is usually by postal mail.

Michigan State University Extension encourages taxpayers to be diligent in protecting their personal information and tax returns from fraudulent activity. Always contact the IRS if you have any questions or to report fraud or scams. 

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