SALT LAKE CITY — About 60 percent of taxpayers in the U.S. will use tax professionals this year to prepare and file their tax returns, according to the IRS
And while most return preparers are honest, the Utah Tax Commission says there are also those who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers.
Among the scams the commission is warning taxpayers about is one that tells the victim they can get a large refund even if they have little or no income. Another comes in the form of an email saying the victim filed their taxes incorrectly, so they need to amend the return online.
"There are several different scams that go around and they're just different versions (of them) year after year," commission spokesman Charlie Roberts said.
He said one of the most common scams they're seeing this year involves telling the victim they can get a tax credit for graduating from college, even if they graduated decades ago.
"They'll say, 'Oh, yeah, you graduated from a college 20 years ago? We can get you money for that,'" Roberts said.
Some tax preparers may be skimming off their clients' returns by inflating their fees. He said people need to ask their preparers about all of the fees that may be charged.
"You should know what it's going to cost up front," he said. "Those are good questions to ask, especially if you haven't dealt with that preparer before."
Roberts said he's seen people move to the state for tax season, get their clients to pay in advance, and then disappear.
"They'll build [what looks] like a credible website and get some business cards printed up, those type of things so to those that are trusting and aren't aware, they look legit," he said.
The IRS says in 2012, every paid preparer needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and enter it on the returns he or she prepares.
The IRS says signals to watch for when dealing with an unscrupulous return preparer would include that they:
• Do not sign the return or place a PTIN on it.
• Do not give victims a copy of their tax return.
• Promise larger than normal tax refunds.
• Charge a percentage of the refund amount as preparation fee.
• Require the victim to split the refund to pay the preparation fee.
• Add forms to the return the victim has never filed before.
• Encourage the victim to place false information on the return, such as false income, expenses and/or credits.
For advice on how to find a competent tax professional, see Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer.