Texas Attorney General Provides Tips to Avoid Becoming A Tax Scam Victim

According to the Internal Revenue Service, as many as 1.2 million individuals earn fees for preparing Americans’ tax returns. Over the years, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has received numerous complaints about tax preparers who fail to file tax returns on time, charge excessive fees, fail to secure anticipated refunds and fail to return personal financial documents to customers. Texans have also voiced concerns about tax preparers making errors on their customers’ tax returns or disappearing after returns are filed.

To avoid becoming a tax return scam victim, the OAG urges Texans to take four quick steps before hiring a tax return preparation professional:

• Ask for the tax preparer’s credentials.
• Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the tax preparer.
• Verify whether the tax preparer is a certified public accountant.
• Make sure the business is open year-round in the event clients need to ask follow-up questions about their returns.

Texans should make sure they know the exact fee for a preparer’s services and insist on a date by which their returns will be filed with the IRS. Clients also should make arrangements to have the tax preparer return personal financial papers used during preparation of the returns.

More importantly, Texans should confirm the basis for all tax deductions the tax preparer claims on their returns. Taxpayers are ultimately subject to accuracy and fraud penalties, plus accrued interest, for any income tax underpayment caused by filing incorrect tax returns.

Taxpayers can generally get information from the IRS about their refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of an e-filed return, or three to four weeks after mailing a paper return.

Finally, Texans should not respond to e-mails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Fraudulent e-mails typically direct a taxpayer to a Web link that requests personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. Taxpayers should also verify the identification and documentation of anyone claiming to be a IRS agent.

Texans may forward such bogus e-mails to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov or file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

General Abbott's signature
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

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ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.

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