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Tips for Avoiding Tricks this Tax Season

20-25% percent of Americans will file their taxes about two weeks before the filing deadline. In Massachusetts, the deadline to file your taxes is April 17. Whether you’re preparing to file your taxes or planning to be one of the 25%, it’s important to make sure you do your taxes correctly now to ensure problems later.

If you are hiring a certified public account to file your tax returns, make sure they’re licensed by the Division of Professional Licensure. It’s easy to check a professional license.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants helps consumers find a CPA in their local area as well. The IRS also has tips on their website for choosing a tax preparer, including avoiding tax preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the tax refund. Additional information on choosing the tax preparer right for you can be found here: https://www.consumerreports.org/taxes/ways-to-find-a-good-tax-preparer/.

Tax Identity Theft and Scams:

You can become vulnerable to tax identity theft by responding to phishing emails or failing to protect sensitive information.  The IRS will not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or by text message to request personal or financial information.

Here are a few tips to avoid tax scams:

  • Do not oblige requests from colleagues or supervisors at your workplace for a list of names and W-2 forms of all fellow employees without first verifying the identity of the requestor. Fraudulent email accounts designed to look like your company’s are easy for a scammer to create and you could jeopardize sensitive information and the ability to file tax returns as a part of a W-2 scam. Pick up the phone or walk down to the employee’s office rather than replying to the email.
  • It’s recommended that consumers file their taxes as soon as possible. In the event a thief has obtained your Social Security number, filing early reduces the chances of the thief filing a tax return before you.
  • The IRS will first mail a bill to a taxpayer who owes taxes before they call. They will not call threatening you, suggesting they’ll bring in local police or immigration lawyers. The IRS will never demand payment in prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfers. The IRS has guidelines online on how to make tax payments.

If you fall victim to tax identity theft:

If you do file a tax return and your return is rejected because it is the second return filed using your SSN, TurboTax suggests a few methods to help you detect and recover from tax scams:

  • Alert the IRS (online or by their official phone number) that a fraudulent return may have been filed due to identity theft by sending IRS Form 14039. You will need to include a copy of your Social Security card and some form of photo identification.
  • You may be asked to fill out Letter 5071C if the IRS suspects a fraudulent filing. This allows you to confirm your identity, using their Identity Verification Service.

It is important to be aware of various tax scams and take extra precautions to protect your information.  Learn more about tax identity theft and how to handle tax scams on the FTC’s webpage.

Our Office also has a checklist of the steps you need to take if you fall victim to identity theft.

 

The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

Contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.

 

 

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