The IRS is in the process of releasing its 2017 Dirty Dozen list of tax scams. It updates this list each tax season to alert taxpayers of tax scams they may encounter during the filing season. Tax scams making the list this year include:
Falsely Padding Deductions
The majority of taxpayers file honest and accurate tax returns each year. However, each year some taxpayers “fudge” their information. This is why falsely claiming deductions, expenses or credits on tax returns remains on the “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams.
Significant penalties may apply for taxpayers who file incorrect returns including:
- 20 percent of the disallowed amount for filing an erroneous claim for a refund or credit.
- $5,000 if the IRS determines a taxpayer has filed a “frivolous tax return.” A frivolous tax return is one that does not include enough information to figure the correct tax or that contains information clearly showing that the tax reported is substantially incorrect.
- In addition to the full amount of tax owed, a taxpayer could be assessed a penalty of 75 percent of the amount owed if the underpayment on the return resulted from tax fraud.
Taxpayers may be subject to criminal prosecution and be brought to trial for actions such as:
- Tax evasion
- Willful failure to file a return, supply information, or pay any tax due
- Fraud and false statements
- Preparing and filing a fraudulent return, or
- Identity theft.
Criminal prosecution could lead to additional penalties and even prison time.
Excessive Claims for Business Credits
Avoid improperly claiming the fuel tax credit, a tax benefit generally not available to most taxpayers. The credit is generally limited to off-highway business use, including use in farming. Taxpayers should also avoid misuse of the research credit. Improper claims generally involve failures to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities and/or satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses.
“Exercise caution when a return preparer promises an extremely large refund or one based on credits or benefits you’ve never been able to claim before,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Watch Out for Fake Charities
Be on guard against groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. Be wary of charities with names similar to familiar or nationally-known organizations. Contributors should take a few extra minutes to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate and currently eligible charities. IRS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to check out the status of charitable organizations.
Watch Out for Crooked Tax Preparers
Be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers. Legitimate tax professionals are a vital part of the U.S. tax system.
Be Vigilant Against Criminals
Tax-related Identity theft – with its related scams to steal personal and financial data from taxpayers or data held by tax professionals – remains a top item on the Dirty Dozen list because it remains an ongoing concern even though progress is being made.
The IRS and its partners remind taxpayers they can do their part to help in this effort. Taxpayers and tax professionals should:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections.
- Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update.
- Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on the computer.
- Use strong passwords.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as a bank, credit card company and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect personal data. Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.
Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat to taxpayers. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as scam artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation and license revocation, among other things.
Taxpayers need to be on guard against fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will never send taxpayers an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS. Be wary of strange emails and websites that may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information.
If you have any questions on how this applies to you, please feel free to give us a call at 248-538-5331.
Buzzkill Disclaimer: This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.