Ready or not, it’s tax season. The IRS will begin accepting and processing those returns beginning Friday, and this year’s tax deadline is still Thursday, April 15. In 2020, the BBB received more than 6,500 IRS related scams via BBB Scam Tracker. And with the IRS expecting more than 150 million returns this year, BBB reminds consumers to be on the lookout for emails, text messages, and phone calls from those posing as IRS agents.
“Filing your taxes early not only increases your chances of getting your refund sooner,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas, said, “it also lowers your chances of a scammer filing a fraudulent return and stealing your refund.”
BBB provides the following tips on safely filing your taxes this year:
Be wary of tax scams. Identity thieves continue to create new ways of stealing personal information and using it for their gain. Knowing how to spot a scam can keep you from having major delays with your return and likewise help you avoid the stress of learning you are a victim.
File early. The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to file your taxes as early as possible, before a scammer has the chance to use your information.
Use a credible tax preparer. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider. Be sure to find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides or requires its members to pursue continuing education and holds them accountable to a code of ethics. And, of course, review their BBB profile to review complaint information and customer reviews.
Consider Accessibility. Many tax preparation services only set up shop for the months leading up to the tax filing deadline. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, you might need to be able to contact your tax preparer throughout the year, which may be difficult if you don’t use a permanent shop or office.
Don’t Fall for the Promise of Big Refunds. Be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition, and steer clear of tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund. Request an estimate and discuss the price before making an agreement. The cost of the service should be determined by the complexity of the return.
Read the Contract Carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it is going to cost for the service, how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit. Make sure you get a copy of your return as well.
You might be a victim of identity theft if:
- If a written notice from the IRS arrives in the mail about a duplicate return, respond promptly.
- If an IRS notice arrives stating you received wages from somewhere you never worked, or receive other notices that don’t actually apply to you, contact the IRS office immediately.
- If you receive a notice that “additional taxes are owed, the refund will be offset or a collection action is being taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return” (IRS).
Call the IRS fraud hotline at 1-800-829-0433 to report suspected fraud.
The BBB is hosting a free webinar on 2021 Tax Updates. For more information or to register, please go to bbb.org.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.