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Tax Preparer Scammer Alert from the IRS

February 23, 2010

BOSTON - It's income tax season and, for some people, the only thing worse than rounding up all their receipts and documentation is finding out too late that they hired someone to do their taxes who was either unqualified or simply trying to rip them off.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prosecuted more than 200 people for bogus acts as tax preparers last year, including a few in New England. The agency has sent an alert to warn consumers about such criminals this season. Some victims had discovered false returns had been filed, or their "preparers" had convinced them, wrongly, they didn't need to pay income taxes at all.

Peggy Riley, IRS spokesperson for New England, says their investigations division is already hearing about tax-preparation scam operators in action again this tax season. While some tax crimes are difficult for the average citizen to detect, she offers a couple of clues.

"You want to be careful of preparers that are saying they can get you the biggest refund possible, or people that charge you a fee based of the size of your refund."

Riley says that if the IRS has a question about your tax return a notification will arrive by mail, never through an e-mail. She adds that only CPAs, enrolled agents and attorneys are allowed to represent taxpayers if their returns are questioned.

"Be a little bit careful about the ones that aren't going to be there after April 15th. In case you get something from the IRS and we are questioning something, you want to make sure that they're around to help you with that."

The agency says about 80 percent of those who present themselves as tax professionals and are caught filing fraudulent returns end up in prison.

Tax-preparer fraud information is at www.irs.gov

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA