We get absolutely deluged with hundreds of calls a day during tax return filing season about all kinds of fraud, particularly identity related scams and claiming child exemptions improperly. In 2016, there was a 400% increase in tax related phishing and malware attacks, and 969,000 potentially fraudulent refunds claiming up to $6.5 billion. You may be unaware that you’re a victim until you try to file your taxes and IRS tells you something’s wrong.
Here are four common scams to watch out for this year:
- Phishing—Fraudsters send fake emails to trick would-be victims into sharing personal data. The real IRS would never initiate contact with you this way.
- Phone fraud—Identity thieves impersonate IRS agents. But, the real IRS states it will never call to demand immediate payment. You will first receive a mailed bill.
- Tax preparer fraud—Use tax professionals? Watch out for emails that appear to be from them asking for private information. Delete and call your service directly.
- Phony IRS agents visit your home—This scam often targets the elderly. Real IRS agents carry photo IDs, and will try to contact you before visiting.
The full list of the recently released “Dirty Dozen” tax scams can be found here. As for claiming child exemptions improperly, the best defense is a good offence: file early. Unfortunately, neither of these big problems make for good whistleblower claims under section 7623(b), the IRS whistleblower program we work with. The Whistleblower Office does not handle the identity theft scams, that is handled by the Treasury Inspector General’s Office. Claiming of exemptions for children is unfortunately not an issue the Whistleblower Office handles either, that has to be handled directly with the IRS in connection with the filing of your return.
What we do see a lot during tax season that the Whistleblower Office is interested in is non-filing of returns, positions being taken that are clearly non-compliant, abusive transactions, or anything that represents an underpayment of tax of more than $2 million of tax over the last three years. If you have information about anything you believe may fit in those categories don’t hesitate to give us a call.