Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How To Spot A Scam, Part 5: Tax Scams

Bankrate.com has a list of the "dirty dozen" tax scams and how to spot them. Here are the list of tax scams covered:

1. Telephone tax refund abuses
2. Abusive Roth IRAs
3. Tax-related identity theft phishing
4. Disguised corporate ownership
5. Zero wage claims
6. Return preparer fraud
7. American Indian employment credit
8. Illegitimate trusts
9. Structured entity credits
10. Improper charitable deductions
11. Form 843 tax abatement
12. Frivolous arguments

Number 12 is the most common one that I am aware of. Here is the entry from Bankrate.com:

12. Frivolous arguments

This is probably the most notorious of scams. Promoters have advocated numerous false claims over the years, including that the 16th Amendment concerning congressional power to lay and collect income taxes was never ratified, wages are not income, filing a return and paying taxes are merely voluntary and being required to file Form 1040 violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The IRS and courts have consistently held that such arguments are frivolous. Taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, says the IRS, but no one has the right to disobey the law that allows the government to collect the taxes.

...
The absence of a particular scheme from the annual dirty dozen rankings should not be taken as an indication that the IRS is unaware of it or not taking steps to counter it. While some schemes might not be as active this tax season, the IRS says taxpayers should remain wary because old scams often resurface or evolve.

If you encounter any of these schemes, or are approached with a new one, the IRS wants to know. Report suspected tax fraud by calling toll-free (800) 829-3676.

Turn in tax cheats and con artists

You also can report suspected tax fraud by sending in Form 3949-A, Information Referral. The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Include as much information as you can, including who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. You don't have to give the IRS your name or address, although it is helpful to do so. The agency says it will keep your information confidential. And if the IRS recovers any tax revenue based on your tip, you might be entitled to a reward. In that case, tax officials will need to know how to get in touch with you.

And remember: If you are ever offered a "surefire" tax-saving opportunity, it never hurts to be a little skeptical.

"When it comes to taxes, everyone has to pay their fair share," says IRS Commissioner Everson. "I urge taxpayers not to be taken in by hucksters who promise to lower or eliminate taxes. Getting caught up in the dirty dozen or similar schemes can lead to big headaches."


And remember the old adage: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." If you have any legitimate tax questions or need help with them, only use a certified state-licensed professional or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you feel you cannot afford a professional, there are many tax programs (TaxCut, TurboTax, etc.) available at many retail outlets that are easy to use and they will go through any potential tax credits or breaks you might be entitled to. There are also different versions of each of these products to match your specific need. For instance, the cheapest version can be used if you are merely a wage earner and don't have that many deductions and the more expensive version is for those who may have a business for which they need to use Schedule C. For your convenience (and, potentially, a small monetary gain on my part) I have provided a link to Amazon.com for each of the products I have mentioned.

If you do think you want to do it yourself, give yourself plenty of time (set aside at least a full day; even better: plan an entire weekend to prepare your tax returns, if necessary). You only have to do it once per year; and once it's done, it's done.


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