As tax deadline nears, IRS warns of rising tax evasion schemes – CBS Denver
DENVER (CBS4) – As the tax filing deadline approaches, the IRS wants to warn the public of an increase in tax evasion schemes. The agency says it’s seeing an increase in fraud and phishing scams at a rate it hasn’t seen in a decade.
These scams can cause great harm to unwary taxpayers because ultimately you are responsible for paying the IRS, even if you are defrauded.
“When you sign for the tax return to be sent, the ultimate responsibility rests with the taxpayer,” says Special Agent in Charge Andy Tsui of the IRS Criminal Investigation at the Denver field office. “So if there’s a problem with the tax return, if you get more money than you’re entitled to, you have to pay it back.”
Tsui says shady tax preparers are one of the tax evasion schemes IRS investigators see on a regular basis.
On Thursday in Denver, Jimmie Lucero of Lucero Tax and Accounting Services was sentenced to three years probation for defrauding clients on their tax returns. While a full restitution amount will be determined at a separate hearing on April 28, the IRS said in a statement it may owe more than $233,000 in restitution.
“Sir. Lucero’s case serves as an example to other tax preparers that the IRS Criminal Investigation remains vigilant and will aggressively pursue individuals who attempt to defraud our tax system,” the IRS Criminal Investigation said. the IRS in an email to CBS4.
In 2021, the IRS Criminal Investigation initiated 1,372 investigations into tax crimes, including tax evasion and refund fraud.
The IRS says Lucero fabricated his clients’ business expenses and charitable contributions to obtain falsely inflated refunds without his clients’ knowledge.
“This case is a very good example of a tax preparer listing additional expenses on a tax return without the knowledge of taxpayers,” Tsui said.
Lucero’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Tsui says “ghost pickers” are also a big deal. These are preparers who do not put their information on a client’s tax return before submitting it to the IRS.
“In reality, the taxpayer…he can get a bigger refund thinking that he’s a tax professional legitimately getting him a bigger refund, and he goes through the process, thinks that’s a normal situation, then the version that goes to the IRS will have it have these scam items on it, and it looks like no one prepared it except the taxpayer,” Tsui explained.
Tsui says it can be difficult to track down ghost pickers, and victims of fraud won’t get their money back unless the criminals are caught.
Thus, the IRS emphasizes the importance of obtaining a copy and reviewing your tax return before authorizing a preparer to send it.
“Ask the tax preparer to review the tax return with you,” Tsui said. “If there are promises of big tax refunds, that’s definitely a red flag.”
Tsui also warns against scammers calling, emailing, texting, and social media posting claiming to be with the IRS to scam people out of money.
Federal Trade Commission data shows that in 2021, there were 4,369 reports of such scam calls nationwide, resulting in total losses of $2.64 million.
The IRS will never contact you on social media or text, or call you to threaten legal action…so hang up if you get one of these calls and report it.
The tax deadline is April 18.
If you think you have been the victim of tax fraud, report it to the IRS immediately. If you believe your tax return may have been incorrect or fraudulent, Tsui advises that you work with a legitimate tax professional to correct and amend your return to avoid any penalties or interest charges on government debt.
For a complete list of recommendations and resources to prevent and report tax fraud, click here.