In my experience as President of SmartServ Solutions, I come across many new clients each year. Most new come to us as a result of my snazzy advertising or through a referral from one of our existing clients. Still others come because they are looking to get a bigger tax refund. I am all for getting the most money back from Uncle Sam. That is, the most legal money. In recent weeks, I have come across a large number of previously filed fraudulent tax returns from 2005. It is a very disturbing trend occurring in the tax preparation business. Before I explain what is going on with the fraudulent tax returns, I would like to give a brief overview of the different types of tax preparation companies. I would classify the tax preparation business into three major categories:
The large faceless tax franchises
Most of the large franchise tax places hire seasonal part time workers who are moonlighting for extra money. They receive training each year from their corporate offices on the new tax laws, but tax preparation is not their primary profession. This leads to in many cases sloppy work and missed deductions. Most of the franchise tax places close down after April 15th.
Independent tax preparation and accounting firms
Independent firms are typically small firms where tax preparers work year round and additional support staff is hired during tax season. Many of these types of firms stay open all year and supplement the rest of the year after tax season with related financial service businesses like accounting, mortgages, investments or insurance.
The “guy” or “girl” who gets big tax refunds
These people are everywhere. They typically work out of an apartment or small store. Their reputation for getting extremely large tax refunds has spread like wildfire. Everybody either knows this person or someone who goes to someone like it. Their offices or apartments are usually standing room only and people will wait hours and hours just for a chance to get their taxes prepared here. There is an unfortunate reality about this type of outfit. An income tax return can be easily manipulated to create a large “temporary” tax refund. I will get in to the reason why I say “temporarily” shortly. Some people actually get and deserve tax refunds upwards of $10,000, $15,000 or even $20,000. The right combination of children, babysitting, mortgage interest and taxes, large withholdings and education expenses will in many cases create such a large tax refund that is legitimate. However, there are many unscrupulous tax preparers in this category who illegally add some or all of the above deductions and credits to anyone’s tax return.
The sad truth is that the IRS will send you the money if you file a fraudulent return claiming an undeserving refund. The IRS is a slow moving big government bureaucracy. They may move slowly, but they do move. They have the capabilities of catching up with most of the tax fraud that is out there. It usually takes them a year or two or three after a tax return like this is filed, but they do catch those involved. What most people who utilize these types of tax preparers fail to realize is that they are completely responsible for the tax return that they file. A defense of “my tax preparer did it” or “I didn’t know” isn’t good enough for the IRS. Once you are caught filing such a tax return, you will be subject to pay back all of the money that you received illegally plus penalties, plus interest and possibly fines. And the IRS will get their money. They will use their power to place a tax levy against fraudsters which will give them the right to freeze assets like bank accounts and garnish salary. This is why I call an undeserving tax refund a “temporary” one. The IRS or State Department of Taxation also has the power to seek jail time if they find that there was fraud committed. Obviously, the unscrupulous tax preparers don’t tell this to their unsuspecting clients. I truly feel bad for these people. Most of them don’t understand the implications of filing a false tax return. I have met many people who have had their lives ruined by such circumstances. Life is too precious and it is not worth ruining your life for an extra couple of thousand dollars on your tax return that you don’t deserve. One tell tale sign that your tax preparer may be committing fraud on your tax return is that they refuse to sign the preparers part of your return. A tax preparer is required by the IRS to sign your tax return if they prepared it for you.
I want to personally caution all taxpayers of filing such a fraudulent tax return in order to receive an unjust refund. There are many legitimate deductions and credits that are available that can be found if you look hard enough. Please choose a tax preparation company who will go the extra mile for your interests while not putting your financial future in jeopardy by getting you in trouble with the IRS.