Every year, the IRS releases a list of 12 schemes that are especially popular during the tax season. This year’s “Dirty Dozen” includes three types of warnings: (1) Protect your personal information and your assets, (2) Don’t engage in tax avoidance or evasion schemes, and (3) Don’t waste the government’s time and resources through frivolous tax arguments.
Protect your personal information and your assets
One-third of the Dirty Dozen this year involve schemes aimed at stealing your identity and/or your cash:
- Identity theft is on the decline, but is still sufficiently widespread – particularly during tax season – and so it remains on the IRS Dirty Dozen. Taxpayers are urged to be especially vigilant about protecting their personal identification information, avoiding phishing emails, and maintaining good anti-virus software and firewalls on their home and business computers.
- Phone scams are on the rise, and the techniques used to steal taxpayers’ money have become increasingly aggressive. Some of the calls are from individuals claiming to be IRS agents, threatening arrest, deportation and license revocation to bully their victims into revealing their personal, bank account, and credit card information. Others are part of a new scam in which a false return is filed and the tax refund is directed to the taxpayer’s bank account – the taxpayer later receives a phone call from someone posing as a debt collector, telling them that the refund was sent to them in error and that they should forward the money to them. Taxpayers should be aware that the IRS never initiates phone calls and has step-by-step instructions how to properly return erroneous refunds) on their site.
- Phishing scams have been getting more creative – since it is more difficult to get money directly from the IRS, scammers first use a taxpayer’s actual bank account for the deposit of a false tax refund, and then employ a variety of phishing attacks to claim the funds from the account. Fake emails and websites ensnare taxpayers to reveal their private information and/or infect their computers with malware that gives the scammer access to sensitive files, passwords and keyboard strokes.
- Fake charities are often used by con artists to get money or personal information from well-intentioned taxpayers. They are often used in the wake of a natural disaster, use a name similar to that of a well-known valid charity, and promise a charitable tax deduction which is not forthcoming. Taxpayers are urged to verify that a charity is real by visiting Exempt Check, an IRS website that lists legitimate tax-exempt organizations.
In Part II, we will cover tax evasion schemes that involve inflating or reducing income and expenses on your tax return.