FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 11, 2015

State’s Attor­ney Reminds Pub­lic Regard­ing Tax Refund Fraud

Union Coun­ty State’s Attor­ney Tyler R. Edmonds is alert­ing the pub­lic regard­ing iden­ti­ty theft and tax refund fraud asso­ci­at­ed with April’s tax fil­ing dead­line.  Tax refund fraud com­mon­ly occurs when stolen iden­ti­ty infor­ma­tion is used to file a tax return in the victim’s name and the thief then obtains the refund that would be due to the vic­tim.  Tax refund fraud has pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed in Union Coun­ty and the State’s Attorney’s Office urges the pub­lic to pro­tect iden­ti­fy­ing doc­u­ments and infor­ma­tion as the tax dead­line approach­es.  The IRS has com­plet­ed the 2015 “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams with a warn­ing to tax­pay­ers about aggres­sive tele­phone scams con­tin­u­ing from coast-to-coast dur­ing this fil­ing sea­son.  Along with aggres­sive and threat­en­ing phone calls, e‑mail phish­ing schemes are among the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams.  The IRS has set up a spe­cial sec­tion on IRS.gov high­light­ing the 12 schemes for tax­pay­ers.  Mem­bers of the pub­lic with ques­tions or report­ing sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty may call the Union Coun­ty State’s Attorney’s Office at 618–833-7216 or the IRS toll-free at 1–800-908‑4490.

The fol­low­ing is a recap of this year’s “Dirty Dozen” scams; the com­plete overview is locat­ed at www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Dirty-Dozen:

  • Phone Scams: Aggres­sive and threat­en­ing phone calls by crim­i­nals imper­son­at­ing IRS agents remains an ongo­ing threat to tax­pay­ers. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent months as scam artists threat­en police arrest, depor­ta­tion, license revo­ca­tion and oth­er things. The IRS reminds tax­pay­ers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise dur­ing any fil­ing season. 
  • Phish­ing: Tax­pay­ers need to be on guard against fake emails or web­sites look­ing to steal per­son­al infor­ma­tion. The IRS will not send you an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. Don’t click on one claim­ing to be from the IRS that takes you by sur­prise. Tax­pay­ers should be wary of click­ing on strange emails and web­sites. They may be scams to steal your per­son­al information.
  • Iden­ti­ty Theft: Tax­pay­ers need to watch out for iden­ti­ty theft espe­cial­ly around tax time. The IRS con­tin­ues to aggres­sive­ly pur­sue the crim­i­nals that file fraud­u­lent returns using some­one else’s Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber. The IRS is mak­ing progress on this front but tax­pay­ers still need to be extreme­ly care­ful and do every­thing they can to avoid becom­ing a victim.
  • Return Pre­par­er Fraud: Tax­pay­ers need to 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. Return pre­par­ers are a vital part of the U.S. tax sys­tem. About 60 per­cent of tax­pay­ers use tax pro­fes­sion­als to pre­pare their returns.
  • Off­shore Tax Avoid­ance: The recent string of suc­cess­ful enforce­ment actions against off­shore tax cheats and the finan­cial orga­ni­za­tions that help them shows that it’s a bad bet to hide mon­ey and income off­shore. Tax­pay­ers are best served by com­ing in vol­un­tar­i­ly and get­ting their tax­es and fil­ing require­ments in order. The IRS offers the Off­shore Vol­un­tary Dis­clo­sure Pro­gram (OVDP) to help peo­ple get their tax­es in order.
  • Inflat­ed Refund Claims: Tax­pay­ers need to be on the look­out for any­one promis­ing inflat­ed refunds. Tax­pay­ers should be wary of any­one who asks them to sign a blank return, promise a big refund before look­ing at their records, or charge fees based on a per­cent­age of the refund. Scam artists use fly­ers, adver­tise­ments, pho­ny store fronts and word of mouth via com­mu­ni­ty groups and church­es in seek­ing victims.
  • Fake Char­i­ties: Tax­pay­ers should be on guard against groups mas­querad­ing as char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions to attract dona­tions from unsus­pect­ing con­trib­u­tors. 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. Be wary of char­i­ties with names that are sim­i­lar to famil­iar or nation­al­ly known organizations.
  • Hid­ing Income with Fake Doc­u­ments: Hid­ing tax­able income by fil­ing false Form 1099s or oth­er fake doc­u­ments is a scam that tax­pay­ers should always avoid and guard against. The mere sug­ges­tion of fal­si­fy­ing doc­u­ments to reduce tax bills or inflate tax refunds is a huge red flag when using a paid tax return pre­par­er. Tax­pay­ers are legal­ly respon­si­ble for what is on their returns regard­less of who pre­pares the returns.
  • Abu­sive Tax Shel­ters: Tax­pay­ers should avoid using abu­sive tax struc­tures to avoid pay­ing tax­es. The IRS is com­mit­ted to stop­ping com­plex tax avoid­ance schemes and the peo­ple who cre­ate and sell them. The vast major­i­ty of tax­pay­ers pay their fair share, and every­one should be on the look­out for peo­ple ped­dling tax shel­ters that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, tax­pay­ers should seek an inde­pen­dent opin­ion regard­ing com­plex prod­ucts they are offered.
  • Fal­si­fy­ing Income to Claim Cred­its: Tax­pay­ers should avoid invent­ing income to erro­neous­ly claim tax cred­its. Tax­pay­ers are some­times talked into doing this by scam artists. Tax­pay­ers are best served by fil­ing the most-accu­rate return pos­si­ble because they are legal­ly respon­si­ble for what is on their return.
  • Exces­sive Claims for Fuel Tax Cred­its: Tax­pay­ers need to avoid improp­er claims for fuel tax cred­its. The fuel tax cred­it is gen­er­al­ly lim­it­ed to off-high­way busi­ness use, includ­ing use in farm­ing. Con­se­quent­ly, the cred­it is not avail­able to most tax­pay­ers. But yet, the IRS rou­tine­ly finds unscrupu­lous pre­par­ers who have enticed siz­able groups of tax­pay­ers to erro­neous­ly claim the cred­it to inflate their refunds.
  • Friv­o­lous Tax Argu­ments: Tax­pay­ers should avoid using friv­o­lous tax argu­ments to avoid pay­ing their tax­es. Pro­mot­ers of friv­o­lous schemes encour­age tax­pay­ers to make unrea­son­able and out­landish claims to avoid pay­ing the tax­es they owe. These argu­ments are wrong and have been thrown out of court. While tax­pay­ers have the right to con­test their tax lia­bil­i­ties in court, no one has the right to dis­obey the law or dis­re­gard their respon­si­bil­i­ty to pay tax­es. The penal­ty for fil­ing a friv­o­lous tax return is $5,000.

Addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion is also avail­able online at www.unioncountyil.gov/sa and at www.irs.gov/identitytheft