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It's tax time again. Watch out for the "ghost" preparer scam

The IRS officially opened its doors for the 2019 tax season on Jan. 27. Like others here in Missouri, you may be gathering your documents and dreading figuring out whether you will have to pay or will get a refund this year. It's kind of like playing roulette since you never quite know how your taxes will turn out, especially with the drastic changes in the tax law that went into effect last year.

In order to make sure you minimize the amount of taxes you will pay or get the maximum refund possible, you may decide to have someone else prepare your taxes. While there are many reputable tax preparers out there, some are out to take advantage of unsuspecting people, such as you. Each year, the IRS warns people about these individuals and the different schemes they use.

The IRS warns of "ghost" preparers

If you look at your federal income tax forms, it includes a space for the preparer to sign it, which the law requires. In addition, tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, which also goes on your tax return. This is the way things are supposed to go when you have someone else fill out your forms for you. However, a ghost preparer will prepare your tax forms and give them back to you for your signature only. Other red flags to look for include those below:

  • A ghost preparer may insist that you have your refund deposited into his or her bank account instead of yours.
  • This scam artist will usually want you to pay in cash, and you probably won't get a receipt.
  • Finally, a ghost preparer will falsely add to your income in some way in order to qualify you for more credits and deductions in order to artificially inflate your refund.

You should always review your return before it's filed, even if you know you went to a reputable preparer. If you do, the problems with the return prepared by a ghost preparer may become clear rather quickly. The problem is that he or she may be quite adept at making people believe them as they lie to you.

If you were to go ahead and file this return, you would more than likely find yourself in some trouble with the IRS, and your preparer will more than likely be long gone with whatever money you gave him or her. If you want to avoid this eventuality, you could consult with a tax attorney to help make sure to file your taxes correctly and in compliance with the law. That same attorney could also help you if you end up in trouble because you became the victim of this or another tax preparer scheme.

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