PORTLAND, Ore. – Each year, taxpayers’ personal information is compromised through phishing scams or by unscrupulous tax preparers. With tax season kicking off Jan. 24, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) wants taxpayers to be aware of tax-related fraud.
“In the midst of the pandemic that has greatly affected us all, there are those that are using it as an opportunity to illegally line their own pockets. IRS-CI is continually using all its resources at our disposal to protect the public from these fraudsters, but there are also things that you can do this filing season to protect your financial well-being,” said Special Agent in Charge Bret Kressin, IRS-CI Seattle Field Office.
“Now that tax season has begun, all taxpayers must be diligent in watching for signs of scams and fraud. Each year, dishonest tax preparers and others posing as financial “experts” take advantage of well-intentioned Americans looking to pay their taxes. Our office will continue partnering with IRS-CI to investigate these crimes and prosecute those responsible,” said Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
Tips to avoid tax season fraud include:
- Choose a tax preparer wisely. Look for a preparer who is available year-round.
- Ask your tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have one.
- Don’t use a ghost preparer. They won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you.
- Don’t fall victim to tax preparers’ promises of large refunds. Taxpayers must pay their fair share of taxes.
- Don’t sign a blank tax return. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS.
- Make sure you receive your refund. Your refund should be deposited into your bank account, not your tax preparer’s.
- The IRS will not call you threatening legal action. If you receive a call like this, hang up.
- Don’t respond to text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS. They may contain malware that could compromise your personal information.
- Don’t click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages about your tax return. These messages are fraudulent.
- Protect your personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS.
The IRS Criminal Investigation Seattle Field Office is committed to protecting taxpayers from others cheating the U.S. tax system. Here are some examples of some of the most egregious criminals that have been recently investigated and brought to justice:
- Damian O. Barrett was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison for perpetrating a multi-year fraud scheme wherein he filed 745 false tax returns in 19 different states. Barrett used the names, social security numbers, and employer identification numbers of various individuals, some of whom were his clients, to submit these fraudulent returns.
- Elizabeth Munoz plead guilty for preparing and filing false fraudulent tax returns for clients and herself. Munoz advertised “Biggest Refund Guaranteed,” using fraudulent tax schedules, tax credits, and filing statuses to carry out the refund fraud. Munoz faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and one-year term of supervised release.
For more tips on choosing a tax professional or how 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. Taxpayers can report phishing emails to email@example.com or IRS impersonation scams to TIGTA.gov.
This year’s tax season begins Monday, Jan. 24 and continues through Monday, April 18 for most taxpayers. U.S. taxpayers are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources and must report all taxable income and pay taxes according to the Internal Revenue Code. Taxpayers found to be committing fraud may be subject to penalties including payment of taxes owed plus interest, fines and jail time.
IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a nearly 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 11 attaché posts abroad.