BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The 2022 tax season has begun and the IRS urges extra caution for taxpayers prior to beginning their filing process. Whether you choose to file your taxes independently or hire a tax professional, the IRS encourages all taxpayers to be alert for signs of things such as fraud. Not only by mail but by phone as well.
IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino said that while criminal activity is at its peak during the beginning stages of tax filing season it's important to ensure that the tax preparer you select is not only the right fit for you and your family but is legitimate.
“Scams and schemes tend to proliferate especially around tax filing season right around now. There’s many variations that have taken place throughout the years certainly, but if you're getting a random phone call, email, text, initiating contact, and social media from the IRS, chances are it's not the IRS. It's a scammer using the IRS as a lure and so keep your intent out and be careful out there.”
“About 55% so more than half of all returns are done every year by tax professionals," continued Tulino. "The bottom line is this: when choosing a tax professional, choose somebody that's looking out for your best interest, that's going to prepare an accurate and honest return that reflects your situation your family's situation on that return.”
But be aware. Tulino said that no matter which tax preparer you file with you are indeed responsible for all the information you provide and if you come across a fraudulent tax return immediately report it to the IRS.
"If a tax preparer prepares a fraudulent tax return for you, then you definitely don't want to submit it to the agency because then you’re going to be left holding that return as responsible. You can report that information to the IRS, we will take that and we do investigate preparers and indict them.”
What to Do When Selecting a Tax Preparer
So with all of the IRS scams and schemes that occur throughout the nation, you might be wondering what are some things taxpayers can be on the lookout for when undergoing their preparer selection process?
“Are they going to be there throughout the whole year? Do they have a PTIN number? That’s a preparer tax identification number," explained Tulino. "All paid preparers must have one of these numbers in order to prepare taxes for a fee. Check their credentials, interview them, ask them about where they've been, where they're going, what kind of returns they've done."
An alternative route to filing your taxes with a preparer is by filing them yourself online by using websites such as Turbo Tax or H&R Block. However, Tulino encourages taxpayers to take advantage of paperless tax returns regardless of if they do them themselves or use a tax professional.
“The IRS doesn’t take a stance on how you get your return prepared. Many people choose a tax professional but certainly, if you're going to do it yourself, choose software and choose direct deposit. Do a paperless tax return. All software that is out is very good and will hold your hand all the way through it.”
Tulino added that it’s certainly okay to file early but taxpayers should take their time and not rush when filing to ensure all of their information is accurate.
Common tax Mistakes
And while tax laws are complicated making tax return errors is actually surprisingly simple. 23ABC took a deep dive on the IRS website and found out which mistakes happen the most and how you can avoid them.
The first is filing too early.
While taxpayers should not file late they also should not file prematurely. People who don't wait to file before they receive all the proper tax-related documents risk making a mistake.
Also, entering missing or inaccurate social security numbers. Each social security number on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the social security card.
Another mistake is incorrect bank account numbers. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit, which is the fastest way to receive their refund. However, taxpayers need to make sure they use the correct routing and account numbers on their tax returns.
And finally, unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return isn't valid. In most cases, both spouses must sign a joint return.
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Call unexpectedly about a tax refund.
Taxpayers who receive these phone calls should:
- Record the number and then hang up the phone immediately.
- Report the call to TIGTA using their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form or by calling 800-366-4484.
- Report the number to email@example.com and be sure to put "IRS Phone Scam" in the subject line.
Tips to help people choose a reputable tax preparer
Here are some tips to remember when selecting a preparer:
- Check the preparer's qualifications.
- Check the preparer's history.
- Ask about service fees.
- Ask to e-file.
- Make sure the preparer is available.
- Provide records and receipts.
- Never sign a blank return.
- Review before signing.
- Review details about any refund.
- Ensure the preparer signs the return and includes their PTIN.
- Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS.