IRS: Beware of ‘Ghost’ Tax Preparers

As the tax-filing season begins, the IRS said some tax preparers are promising bigger returns that might seem tempting. 


“They may invent income so that you qualify for tax credits, they may claim fake deductions so that you qualify for a larger refund,” IRS spokesman Michael Devine said. 


But these ghost prepares won’t sign the return and often ask for cash so they’re not tied to the return in anyway. Devine said the filer will then get audited, fined, or worse.


“It could even cross over into tax fraud,” he said. “That’s when you get into criminal penalties.”


An April 2019 report by the U.S. Treasury found that the IRS “identified 3,529 tax returns with approximately $15.8 million claimed in fraudulent refunds and prevented the issuance of $12.2 million (77.2 percent) in fraudulent refunds.”


No matter who prepares the return, Devine encouraged taxpayers to review it and ask questions about anything unclear before signing. He said anyone who suspects they are a victim of a ghost preparer to contact the IRS immediately.


Taxpayers also can look for the tax preparer’s P-TIN number. Devine said never to trust a deal that seems too good to be true.


Both the IRS and the state of Illinois began accepting tax filings Monday. The deadline for filing is April 15.

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