Joe Mastriano in The Houston Courier “Education is key to keep from being victim to tax fraud”
Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014 11:09 pm
By Kimberly Sutton
With a little less than a month to file taxes, the IRS warns taxpayers of scams and identity thieves who are eager to take their tax refunds.
Montgomery County taxpayers should be on guard and not fall victim to tax scams.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Certified Public Accountant Joe Mastriano said.
Mastriano has many clients in Montgomery County and wants to warn all taxpayers to beware of unlicensed tax preparers and scammers who steal tax refunds.
“Education is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of these “too good to be true” tax scams,” according to the IRS website.
More than 27 million taxpayers have filed their tax returns from home computers so far this year, an increase of almost 6 percent over last year.
At the end of the fourth week of the filing season, the IRS had received almost 40 percent of the returns it expects to receive during 2014.
The IRS warns consumers that it does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
Taxpayers need to protect their Social Security numbers mainly,” Mastriano said. “Also, if someone calls you claiming they are from the IRS, get their name and number and tell them you will call them in the office. Then call and ask for the manager and verify they work for that collection group. Never transact business or give out information to anyone who calls and says they are from the IRS.”
Mastriano answers questions for taxpayers and gives some steps to follow to avoid being scammed:
Signs of tax refund fraud
“There really aren’t signs. What happens is that people don’t have the level of awareness they need to have these days about keeping up with the information the IRS has on you. It’s all free and a phone call away.”
What do people need to do to keep from being scammed?
“They need to hire a licensed certified accountant firm or a licensed law firm, not some tax prep company without a professional state license. Also, they must ask questions and understand what is in their tax return and how it meets the IRS requirements. More and more tax preparers are getting fined and disbarred by the IRS for just putting numbers on forms and not questioning the situation. Then they audit the returns of those preparers. So you will be a victim more likely by going to a nonprofessionally licensed firm. It’s not necessarily more expensive and the quality will be better.”
What do identity thieves need to steal identity?
As far as fraudulent tax returns are concerned, a federal ID number (Social Security number for individuals) and an address. It’s very easy to do and almost impossible to avoid. Guard Social Security numbers as much as possible. Don’t send it over the Internet and keep computers secure from attacks.
How do taxpayers know whom to call and avoid
Preparers need to have the experience of audit representation so they know what auditors will accept and not accept. You can’t just follow the tax form instructions and IRS publications anymore. Auditors have their own interpretations of what is OK and what is not. The preparer needs to understand the tax codes and regulations so items on the return can be explained properly. Look at the tax return and and see that there are notes concerning receipts, business deductions and mileage logs.