April 6 (UPI) — With April being the busiest month to file income taxes, the U.S. Justice Department on Friday issued a warning to Americans about predatory tax return preparers.
The department reminded filers to be cautious when selecting a preparer, as some are criminals ready to take advantage of taxpayers — which could leave them on the hook for unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.
In the past year, the department has filed dozens of civil and criminal actions to “shut down tax return preparers who allegedly prepared false tax returns and to punish dishonest tax return preparers for their fraudulent activities.”
In January, a man in Kansas was sentenced to 96 months in prison for preparing income tax returns for clients that reported false business income and losses, medical and dental expense deductions, job-related expenses and charitable donations.
A Louisiana woman, who continued to file returns even after a federal judge permanently enjoined her from preparing returns, was sentenced in December to seven years for filing fraudulent income tax returns that included fake business losses, deductions and tax credits.
Another case includes a Mississippi preparer sentenced to 48 months last summer for aiding the preparation of a false return — and instructing clients who owed the IRS to write payment checks directly to her, without her ever filing a return.
“The tax division will continue to protect the American public by holding fraudulent tax return preparers accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Zuckerman. “The Justice Department is committed to working with the IRS to stamp out this fraud.”
More information can be found on the Justice Department website. The IRS also has a page with tips to help prevent taxpayers from being scammed.