IRS warns of tax fraud schemes this tax season

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ST. LOUIS – In 2023, IRS Criminal Investigation opened more than 1,400 tax-crime cases. They found $5.5 billion in tax fraud and were able to uncover information that led to the sentences of 655 tax criminals.

“In quite a few cases, we’ve seen the taxpayer doesn’t know, and the taxpayer never gets the refund. The refund is diverted to the return preparers bank account,” Tom Murdock, special agent in charge of criminal investigations for the IRS St. Louis Field Office, said.

He said that those who are trusted to prepare tax returns frequently come up with these schemes.

“They add dependents on the tax return that the individual doesn’t even have. They put other children on their tax return as dependents. They inflate expenses or create additional expenses on the tax return to get a larger refund.

They give the taxpayer credits that they’re not entitled too and even omit income, all with the purpose of getting a larger refund.” Murdock said.

Vulnerable members of the community are most victimized, according to Murdock.

“We see individuals preying on a certain segment of the community. Those individuals who don’t speak English as maybe their first language. They go to people who look like them or who can speak the same language as them, and unfortunately, those people are being victimized by those return preparers,” he said.

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Murdock recommends finding a reputable source with certain standards to complete tax returns.

“They’ve got established business locations. They’ve got good reputations in the community. Ask your family and friends. Don’t be just swayed by a sign that says ‘$5,000 for a dependent’ or ‘Get a large refund here,’” he said.

Signs of a tax scheme include tax preparers not signing tax returns, asking you to sign a blank return and saying your tax refund needs to be deposited into their bank account first before they give you the refund.

“If you see those things, those are huge red flags and you should be looking for a different return preparer,” Murdock said.

He also warns of scammers impersonating the IRS on social media, via email or text.

“The IRS is never going to contact you over text, email, or social media. Don’t respond to those requests,” he said.


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