By Sharon Aron Baron
The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division reminds taxpayers to file accurate tax returns and choose a tax preparer wisely.
All American citizens are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources and most taxpayers meet this obligation by reporting all taxable income and paying taxes according to the law. However, those who willfully hide income should know that the IRS works across its divisions to ensure the highest possible tax compliance.
Taxpayers found to be committing fraud may be subject to penalties, including payment of taxes owed plus interest, fines, and jail time.
According to the IRS, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) by law.
“Every year, we investigate return preparers who engage in fraudulent activities where victims are often not even aware of the preparer’s criminal activity. We are providing tips on choosing a reputable return preparer to prevent taxpayers from being victimized,” said Tyler R. Hatcher, IRCS-CI acting special agent in charge of the Miami Field Office.
He added that paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on the return. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the refund’s size.
Tax return preparers are vital to the U.S. tax system. As of the tax year 2018, 55 percent of taxpayers used a paid preparer. Although most preparers provide honest and professional services, a small number of dishonest preparers set up shop during filing season to steal money, personal and financial information from clients. Taxpayers can avoid falling victim to unscrupulous preparers by following important steps.
Tips when choosing a tax preparer:
- Look for a preparer who is available year-round in case questions arise after the filing season.
- Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) required for paid preparers.
- Inquire about the preparer’s credentials and check their qualifications.
- Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or claim to offer a bigger refund than their competition.
- Never sign a blank or incomplete return and review it before signing. Refunds should go directly to the taxpayer, not the preparer.
For more tips on choosing a tax professional or to file a complaint against one, visit IRS.gov. Taxpayers who suspect tax violations by a person or business may report it to the IRS using Form 3949A, Information Referral. Do your taxes for free with Free File at https://www.irs.gov/freefile
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- Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and Tamarac Talk, Coral Springs Talk, and Parkland Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2011 to provide News for the residents of Tamarac and is the #1 News Source for Residents.