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Posted by: Heinz Brisske

The IRS published its “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for 2015 in Publication IR-2015-26 on February 9. John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner, noted that the list highlights two items: phone scams and e-mail phishing attempts: “We are doing everything we can to help taxpayers avoid scams as the tax season continues. Whether it is a phone scam or scheme to steal a taxpayer’s identity, there are simple steps to take to help stop these con artists. We urge taxpayers to visit www.irs.gov for more information and to be wary of these dozen tax scams.”

1. Phone Scams – Criminals impersonate IRS agents and threaten taxpayers with arrest, deportation or license revocation in order to steal the taxpayers’ identity.

2. Phishing – Fake emails or websites are used to steal personal information. The email may attempt to gain access to your personal information. Koskinen emphasized that the IRS does not email taxpayers about a tax bill or refund.

3. Identity Theft – Criminals continue to steal Social Security numbers and attempt to e-File and obtain an early tax refund.

4. Return Preparer Fraud – Unscrupulous return preparers may be involved in refund fraud or identity theft.

5. Offshore Tax Avoidance – It is unlawful to hide money and income offshore. The IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) may help you get your taxes in order.

6. Inflated Refund Claims – Do not sign a blank return or have your tax return prepared by someone who bases their fees on a percentage of your refund.

7. Fake Charity – There are individuals who claim to represent a charitable organization and solicit donations. You should check to be sure that your gifts go to legitimate charities that qualify for a deduction.

8. Fake Documents – Some individuals attempt to hide income by filing a false Form 1099 or other documents. A taxpayer is responsible for paying his or her tax, regardless of who prepares the return.

9. Abusive Tax Shelters – There are complex tax avoidance schemes that sound “too good to be true.” You should seek advice of a qualified advisor before using any aggressive tax strategy.

10. Inventing Income to Claim Credits – Some taxpayers have claimed increased income in an effort to qualify for the earned income tax credit.

11. Fuel Tax Credits – The fuel tax credit for off-highway business use, such as farming, can be used to apply for an improper tax refund.

12. Frivolous Tax Arguments – Various promoters have urged taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims. These claims have regularly been held invalid by the courts and tax protesters have suffered substantial penalties.
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