Pennsylvania residents should be on guard against tax scams promoted by individuals trying to persuade them to file false tax returns. These scams have, in many cases, targeted elderly taxpayers in the Midwest but have since spread nationwide including Pennsylvania.
The Internal Revenue Service has noted an increase in tax-return-related scams involving unsuspecting seniors and others who normally do not have a filing requirement in the first place. These taxpayers are led to believe they should file a return with the IRS for money of which they are not entitled.
"This scam first hit the Erie area and has since spread across the state targeting the elderly as well as others who receive Social Security benefits. These dishonest return preparers are charging a fee to prepare a false tax return on your behalf promising a large refund or rebate." said David Stewart, IRS spokesman. "However, these victims do not have any withholding to claim and are not eligible for any credits, refunds or rebates."
Most paid tax return preparers provide honest and professional services, but there are some who engage in fraud and other illegal activities. Unscrupulous promoters of tax scams often prey upon low income individuals and seniors. They build false hopes of a refund and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, victims of these scams discover their claims are rejected or the refund barely exceeds what they paid the scam promoter. Meanwhile, their money and the promoters are long gone.
Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS have been circulated at community organizations including churches and organizations that assist seniors, exploiting their good intentions and credibility. The flyers suggest that taxpayers can file a return and get a refund with little or no documentation. These fraudulent schemes are often spread by word of mouth among unsuspecting and well-intentioned people telling their friends and relatives.
"Return Preparer fraud is a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation and we have committed resources to investigating and prosecuting these types of cases," said Thomas Jankowski, special agent in charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation-Pittsburgh Field Office. "Taxpayers should be very selective in choosing a return preparer, and have confidence knowing that person will prepare accurate tax returns and safeguard their financial information. Remember it is always the taxpayer (you) who is ultimately responsible for what is filed with the IRS."
Anyone victimized or approached by these scam promoters should contact the local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Others with questions about tax credits or refunds should visit the IRS website at www.IRS.gov or call the IRS toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040.