It's tax season, and small business taxpayers everywhere are vulnerable to scams. A tax scam can come in many different forms, but the goals are usually similar. Scammers want to find a way to benefit financially, so they may try to steal your identity, your tax refund or important account information. In other cases, a scammer may simply try to charge you an exorbitant fee for some unnecessary or harmful service, such as the preparation of a fraudulent return. To avoid falling victim to a tax scam this year, follow these four tips.
- Don't fall for calls from the IRS.
One of the most popular tax scams involves a call, email or text message from someone who claims to represent the Internal Revenue Service. During this call, the individual may tell you that you owe back taxes or that there is a problem with your tax return. The goal of this scam is to collect money and/or to gather information that could be used for identity fraud. The IRS doesn't call taxpayers or send emails about such matters, so don't be fooled. If the IRS has a problem with your tax return or the amount of money you have paid, you will receive an official letter in the mail.
- Choose your tax preparer carefully.
Working with a tax preparer can simplify the filing process considerably. However, if you choose the wrong tax preparer, your money and identity could be at risk. Some disreputable tax preparers may run scams of their own, attempting to grossly overcharge you, steal your money or even use your identity. In addition, even reputable tax preparers may sometimes put you at risk if they fall victim to scams while handling your tax return. When choosing a tax preparer, make sure the organization you choose not only has a good reputation, but is also aware of tax scams and how to avoid them.
- Avoid unusual fees.
Many tax preparers provide high-quality services to clients at a fair price. However, some tax preparers may be in business for the wrong reason. For example, if a tax preparer calculates fees as a percentage of the taxpayer's refund, they have an incentive to prepare a fraudulent return that generates more revenue. In these cases, the taxpayer is often left holding the bag when his or her return is ruled fraudulent.
- Keep all communications secure.
Some scammers may attempt to breach or intercept communications between tax preparers and their clients in order to steal sensitive information. When communicating with any person or individual about issues related to your tax return, make sure that the communications are kept confidential and secure from hackers.
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