The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it is providing taxpayers an additional day to file their tax returns following a computer problem that arose early in the morning on April 17, the tax filing deadline. Taxpayers will now have until midnight on Wednesday, April 18, to file their returns. No action is necessary in order for taxpayers to receive the benefit of an extra day.

“This is the busiest tax day of the year, and the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “The IRS appreciates everyone’s patience during this period. The extra time will help taxpayers affected by this situation.”

A Washington Post article reported that “several senior government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the agency’s outdated technology failed amid the crush of last-minute filers.” The IRS has faced years of budget cuts from Congress, with its workforce steadily dwindling and its technology systems in dire need of upgrades.

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Tomorrow is the annual deadline for the filing of individual income tax returns for calendar year 2017.  The Internal Revenue Service expects to receive approximately 32 million returns in the final days leading up to April 17.  In addition, the IRS expects to receive about 12 million last-minute requests for extensions of the April 17 filing deadline.  With millions of taxpayers scrambling to meet tomorrow’s deadline, we provide this recap of the IRS’s annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for 2018 and a link to our prior blog posts addressing each one.

Compiled annually by the IRS, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter any time of the year, but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or seek help from tax professionals. To help protect taxpayers, the IRS highlighted each of these scams on twelve consecutive days leading up to the filing deadline to help raise awareness.

1. “Phishing” scams: These schemes typically take the form of fake emails or websites looking to steal personal tax information and often increase in frequency during tax season.

2. Phone scams where criminals pose as IRS agents: In aggressive phone scams, criminals pose as IRS agents in hopes of stealing money. During filing season, the IRS generally sees a surge in scam phone calls threatening such things as arrest, deportation, and/or license revocation if the victim does not pay a phony tax bill. In a new variation, the IRS has observed that identity thieves are filing fraudulent tax returns with refunds going into the real taxpayer’s bank account, followed shortly thereafter by a threatening phone call trying to convince the taxpayer to send the money to the fraudster.

3. Identity theft: Even though instances of tax-related identity theft have declined markedly in recent years, the IRS warns that this practice is still widespread and remains serious enough to earn a spot on its annual list of tax scams. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file a fraudulent tax return claiming a refund.

4. Tax return preparer fraud: With more than half of the nation’s taxpayers relying on someone else to prepare their tax return, the IRS reminds consumers today to be on the lookout for unscrupulous tax preparers looking to make a fast buck from honest people seeking tax assistance. The IRS recognizes that the majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who operate each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft, and other scams that hurt honest taxpayers.

5. Fake charities: Scam groups masquerade as charitable organizations, luring people to make donations to groups or causes that don’t actually qualify for a tax deduction.

6. Falsely inflated refunds:  Scam artists frequently prey on older Americans, low-income taxpayers, and others with promises of big refunds.

7.  Improper claims for business credits:  Two common credits targeted for abuse include the research credit and the fuel tax credit. While both credits have legitimate uses, there are specific criteria that must be met in order to qualify for them.

8.  Falsely padding deductions:  Common areas targeted by unscrupulous tax preparers involve overstating deductions such as charitable contributions, padding business expenses, or improperly claiming credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.

9.  Falsified income and fake Form 1099 scams:   A common tax scam the IRS sees each year involves falsifying income in order to claim refundable credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Another frequent scheme involves the filing of false Forms 1099 and/or bogus financial instruments such as bonds, bonded promissory notes, or worthless checks.

10.  Frivolous tax arguments:  Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish legal claims to avoid paying their taxes. Such arguments have been repeatedly thrown out of court.

11.  Abusive tax shelters:  These sophisticated schemes, particularly those involving micro-captive insurance shelters, are peddled by promoters and others to avoid taxes.

12.  Offshore tax evasion: Offshore tax compliance has been a major focus for the IRS in recent years, and taxpayers who avoid taxes by hiding money or assets in unreported offshore accounts should remain wary given the continuing focus on such schemes by both the IRS and the Justice Department.

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The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers against scam groups masquerading as charitable organizations, luring people to make donations to groups or causes that don’t actually qualify for a tax deduction. These phony charities, which attempt to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors using a charitable reason and a tax deduction as bait for taxpayers are ranked fifth on the annual IRS “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. Perpetrators of illegal scams can face significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. To help protect taxpayers, the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Compiled annually by the IRS, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter any time of the year, but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or seek help from tax professionals. To help protect taxpayers, the IRS is highlighting each of these scams on twelve consecutive days to help raise awareness.

The text of today’s announcement from the IRS follows:

The IRS offers these basic tips to taxpayers making charitable donations:

• Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, that allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities will provide their Employer Identification Number (EIN), if requested, which can be used to verify their legitimacy through the IRS Select Check.

• Don’t give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or passwords, to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal identities and money from victims. Donors often use credit cards to make donations. Be cautious when disclosing credit card numbers to those seeking a donation. Confirm that those soliciting a donation are calling from a legitimate charity.

• Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.

• Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it provides complete details on what records to keep to help taxpayers at tax time.

Impersonation of charitable organizations

Another long-standing type of abuse or fraud involves scams that occur in the wake of significant natural disasters.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to donate to recognized charities established to help disaster victims. Following major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.

Scam artists can use a variety of tactics following a disaster. Some scammers operating bogus charities may contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.

Remember, fraudsters may attempt to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims’ identities or financial resources. Bogus websites may solicit funds for disaster victims.

Taxpayers can find legitimate and qualified charities with the Select Check search tool on IRS.gov.

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Continuing its daily “countdown” of the annual “Dirty Dozen” tax schemes, the Internal Revenue Service announced that return preparer fraud is the fourth entry on that esteemed list for 2018. With more than half of the nation’s taxpayers relying on someone else to prepare their tax return, the Internal Revenue Service reminded consumers today to be on the lookout for unscrupulous tax preparers looking to make a fast buck from honest people seeking tax assistance. The IRS recognizes that the majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who operate each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft, and other scams that hurt honest taxpayers.

Compiled annually by the IRS, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter any time of the year, but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or seek help from tax professionals. To help protect taxpayers, the IRS is highlighting each of these scams on twelve consecutive days to help raise awareness.

The text of today’s announcement from the IRS follows:

Tax return preparers are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. About 56 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns.

Selecting the right tax professional is critically important because taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what they submit on their tax return.

The IRS is also working to protect taxpayers from shady return preparers. The pursuit of illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest as well as possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Choose Return Preparers Carefully

It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare a tax return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to claim. Scam preparers may take this step in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers encounter everything from stiff penalties to jail time for defrauding their clients.

Here are a few tips for taxpayers to consider to help avoid a fraudster when choosing a tax preparer:

– Avoid fly-by-night preparers. Make sure the preparer will be available if needed, even after the return is filed. In the event questions come up about a tax return, taxpayers may need to contact the preparer.

– Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on tax returns.

– Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. Tax law can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters.  The IRS website has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.

– Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help locate a tax return preparer with the preferred qualifications.

– The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of tax preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:

– Attorneys

– CPAs

– Enrolled Agents

– Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents

– Enrolled Actuaries

– Annual Filing Season Program participants

– Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

– Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or boast bigger refunds than their competition. Don’t give tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information to a preparer when only inquiring about their services and fees. Unfortunately, some preparers have improperly filed returns without the taxpayer’s permission once the records were obtained.

– Make sure the preparer offers IRS e-file and ask to e-file the tax return. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.

– Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see tax records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine the client’s total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file a return using a pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

– Understand representation rules. Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent taxpayers in limited situations if they prepared and signed the return. However, non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before Dec. 31, 2015.

– Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks clients to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.

– Review the tax return before signing. Before a taxpayer signs a return, they should review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should ensure they are comfortable with the accuracy of the return and that the refund goes directly to them – not into the preparer’s bank account. Reviewing the routing and bank account number on the completed return is always a good idea.

– Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Taxpayers can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a return preparer is suspected of filing or changing the return without the client’s consent, also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Forms are available on IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, understanding the differences in credentials and qualifications, researching the IRS preparer directory and learning how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if someone else prepares it.

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Today the Internal Revenue Service announced the third entry on its annual “dirty dozen” list of the tax schemes most commonly encountered by taxpayers during tax filing season. Even though instances of tax-related identity theft have declined markedly in recent years, the IRS warns that this practice is still widespread and remains serious enough to earn a spot on its annual list of tax scams. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file a fraudulent tax return claiming a refund.

Compiled annually by the IRS, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter any time of the year, but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or seek help from tax professionals. To help protect taxpayers, the IRS is highlighting each of these scams on twelve consecutive days to help raise awareness.

The text of today’s announcement from the IRS follows:

The IRS, the states and the tax industry began working together in 2015 as the Security Summit to fight tax-related identity theft. Security Summit partners enacted a series of safeguards that are making inroads against identity thieves.

For example, the number of taxpayers reporting themselves as identity theft victims declined by 40 percent in 2017 from 2016. In 2017, the IRS received 242,000 reports from taxpayers compared to 401,000 in 2016. This was the second year in a row this number fell, dropping from 677,000 victim reports in 2015. Overall, the number of identity theft victims has fallen nearly 65 percent between 2015 and 2017.

Because of these successes, criminals are devising more creative ways to steal more in-depth personal information to impersonate taxpayers. Taxpayers and tax professionals must remain vigilant to the various scams and schemes used for data thefts.

Business filers should be aware that cybercriminals also file fraudulent Forms 1120 using stolen business identities and they, too, should be alert.

Security Reminders for Taxpayers

The IRS and its partners remind taxpayers and tax professionals that they can do their part to help in this effort. Taxpayers and tax professionals should:

– Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on the computer. Use strong passwords.

– Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.

– Protect personal data. Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.

The Security Summit has worked to increase awareness among taxpayers and tax professionals about tax-related identity theft and security steps through its “Taxes. Security. Together.” and “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” campaigns.

The IRS understands that reversing the damage caused by identity theft is a frustrating and complex process for victims. While identity thieves steal information from sources outside the tax system, the IRS is often the first to inform a victim that identity theft has occurred. The IRS is working hard to resolve identity theft cases as quickly as possible. For more information, see the special identity theft section on IRS.gov.

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Today the Internal Revenue Service announced the second entry on its annual “dirty dozen” list of the tax schemes most commonly encountered by taxpayers during tax filing season. The IRS said that aggressive phone scams where as criminals pose as IRS agents in hopes of stealing money remain a major threat to taxpayers. During filing season, the IRS generally sees a surge in scam phone calls threatening such things as arrest, deportation, and/or license revocation if the victim does not pay a phony tax bill. In a new variation, the IRS has observed that identity thieves are filing fraudulent tax returns with refunds going into the real taxpayer’s bank account, followed shortly thereafter by a threatening phone call trying to convince the taxpayer to send the money to the fraudster.

Compiled annually by the IRS, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter any time of the year, but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or seek help from tax professionals. To help protect taxpayers, the IRS is highlighting each of these scams on twelve consecutive days to help raise awareness.

The text of today’s announcement from the IRS follows:

How Do the Scams Work?

Con artists make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They convince the victim to send cash, usually through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card or gift card. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or send a phishing email.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

The IRS also reminded taxpayers today that scammers change tactics. Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round and they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports they have become aware of over 12,716 victims who have collectively paid over $63 million as a result of phone scams since October 2013.

Here are some things the scammers often do, but the IRS will not do. Taxpayers should remember that any one of these is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS Will Never:

– Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

– Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

– Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

– Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

– Call you about an unexpected refund.

For Taxpayers Who Don’t Owe Taxes or Don’t Think They Do:

– Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.

– Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.

– Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For Those Who Owe Taxes or Think They Do:

– Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help.

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more information visit Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers have a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore these rights and the agency’s obligations to protect them on IRS.gov. Phone Scams Pose Serious Threat; Remain on IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ List of Tax Scams

IRS YouTube Videos:

– Tax ScamsEnglish | Spanish | ASL

– Dirty DozenEnglish | Spanish | ASL

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BitcoinThe Internal Revenue Service has assembled a specialized team of criminal investigators to build criminal tax evasion cases involving users of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, according to a Bloomberg article entitled “IRS Cops Are Scouring Crypto Accounts to Build Tax Evasion Cases.” In that article, David Voreacos writes that IRS Special Agents are pivoting from investigating taxpayers with secret offshore bank accounts to taxpayers with cryptocurrency accounts. Don Fort, chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), is quoted as saying that “It’s possible to use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the same fashion as foreign bank accounts to facilitate tax evasion.”

Last fall, IRS-CI announced that it was creating a new international tax enforcement group to focus on investigating and building criminal cases involving cross-border activity. According to the Bloomberg article, a newly-assembled team of 10 special agents in that group are now focusing not only on international crimes but also potential tax evasion using cryptocurrency.

As we have previously reported (here, here, and here), other federal agencies are tightening the regulatory framework surrounding cryptocurrencies and are launching vigorous enforcement campaigns to crackdown on fraud. Both the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission have formed specialized enforcement groups to focus on cryptocurrency fraud, and have issued stern warnings to investors and consumers about the risks of cryptocurrency investments.

Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service has prevailed in its long-running dispute with Coinbase, the largest U.S.-based Bitcoin exchange, with a federal judge ordering Coinbase to comply with a “John Doe” summons seeking customer information. In an opinion issued on November 28, 2017, the court in San Francisco found that the government’s narrowed request for information on Coinbase’s customers served the legitimate purpose of investigating whether Bitcoin users properly reported gains or losses on their income tax returns. The Court also found that the customer records sought by the government were relevant because they can be used by the IRS to determine whether a particular Coinbase customer is tax compliant. Coinbase must now hand over to the IRS records for accounts that had at least one transaction of at least $20,000 value during the period 2013 to 2015. According to Coinbase, this will require it to divulge trading records regarding nearly 9 million transactions conducted by over 14,000 customers.

Notwithstanding all of this enforcement activity, early data from federal tax filing season (which began January 29, 2018) suggests that cryptocurrency investors may not be properly reporting gains/losses on their 2017 federal income tax returns. Reuters reported yesterday on preliminary tax filing data from online tax service Credit Karma:

Less than 100 people out of the 250,000 individuals who have already filed federal taxes this year through company Credit Karma reported a cryptocurrency transaction to U.S. tax authorities, the company said on Tuesday.

This is despite nearly 57 percent of the 2000 Americans surveyed by the credit score startup and research firm Qualtrics last month saying they had realized some gains from cryptocurrencies, according to a Credit Karma study.

Roughly the same percentage said they had never reported cryptocurrency gains to the Internal Revenue Service, while nearly half of those polled said they understood how owning cryptocurrencies affected their taxes, the study said.

The IRS considers cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as property for federal tax purposes, meaning any profits or losses from the sale or exchange of the virtual coins should generally be reported as capital gains or losses.

Trading of cryptocurrencies, digital tokens whose value is not backed by central banks and hard assets, surged in 2017 amid a rally in their price. A single bitcoin is worth more than $8000, compared with $1000 a year ago.

Despite the surge it remains unclear how many Americans hold cryptocurrencies as these are bought and sold on online platforms, sometimes anonymously or using pseudonyms. US-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase says it has 10 million users, although it is unclear how many of these are in the U.S.

Jagjit Chawla, general manager for Credit Karma Tax said the company was not too surprised that few people had reported cryptocurrency gains as Americans with more complex tax situations tend to file closer to the deadline.

“However, given the popularity of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in 2017, we’d expect more people to be reporting,” Chawla said in a statement.

Credit Karma entered the online tax filing market last year, and about 1 million individuals filed their tax returns using Credit Karma’s product.

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The Internal Revenue Service said today that it successfully started accepting and processing 2017 federal individual income tax returns. More than 155 million returns are expected to be filed this year.

The filing deadline to submit 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018, rather than the traditional April 15 date. In 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday – April 16. However, Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – will be observed on that Monday, which pushes the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 17, 2017. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, to file.

The IRS expects more than 70 percent of taxpayers to get tax refunds this year. Last year, nearly 112 million refunds were issued, with an average refund of $2,895.

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