NEWS

Tax tip: Don’t falsify income

Staff Report

     The IRS is warning taxpayers to avoid schemes to erroneously claim tax credits on their returns, which is on the annual list of tax scams known as the “Dirty Dozen” again for the 2016 filing season.

     “Taxpayers should not falsify their income or other information on their tax returns to improperly claim tax credits,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "Misrepresenting facts is cheating and taxpayers are legally responsible for all the information reported on their tax returns.”

    Compiled annually, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or hire professionals to do so.

     Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Don’t fake income

     Some people falsely increase the income they report to the IRS. This scam involves inflating or including income on a tax return that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income, usually in order to maximize refundable credits.

Just like falsely claiming an expense or deduction you did not pay, claiming income you did not earn in order to secure larger refundable credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit could have serious repercussions. This could result in taxpayers facing a large bill to repay the erroneous refunds, including interest and penalties. In some cases, they may even face criminal prosecution.

     Taxpayers may encounter unscrupulous return preparers who make them aware of this scam. Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Make sure the preparer you hire is ethical and up to the task.

Choose return preparers carefully

     It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers face everything from penalties to even jail time for defrauding their clients.

     Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on your filed tax return.

     Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select.