What to remember this Tax Season

Tax season is upon us, and many people are looking for help filing a tax return.

In doing so, taxpayers should choose their tax preparers wisely because it’s ultimately the taxpayer who is responsible for all the information on their income tax return. This is true no matter who prepares the return.

Here are some tips for folks to remember when selecting a preparer:

Consider Going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Site. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites provide FREE income tax preparation to individuals and families who make less than $56,000 per year. These sites operate between February and mid-April at locations all over North Carolina.  Find a VITA site near you!

Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.

Check the Preparer’s History. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer. They should check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers.

Ask about Service Fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.

Ask to e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and choose direct deposit.

Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid “fly-by-night” preparers.

Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.

Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. Once they sign the return, taxpayers are accepting responsibility for the information on it.

Review details about any refund. Taxpayers should make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.

Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer (PDF).

Check out our other Tax Season Resources:

What NOT to do when filing your taxes

Protect yourself from scams this tax season

Protect Yourself This Tax Season

Tax season is also the season for scams targeting taxpayers. Understand the most common scams to protect yourself, your personal information and your finances.

Identity Theft

This occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your Name, Social Security Number (SSN) or other personal identifying information, without your permission. It is often used by scammers to fraudulently file tax returns and claim refunds.

If you file a tax return and then receive a letter from IRS that another tax return was filed using your name, OR if you don’t file a tax return and then receive a letter that a tax return was filed using your name, the false tax filing could be due to identity theft.

Your identity could be stolen, or misused by a former spouse, family member or business partner. 

If you believe that you are at risk of identity theft due to lost, stolen, or misused personal information, contact the North Carolina Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Phishing

Phishing is usually carried out with unsolicited e-mails or fake websites to steal your personal and financial information. All you must do is click on false links and your personal information could be compromised. 

Keep in mind, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. 

Some tax scammers also use snail mail; so be aware, when you receive regular mail that purports to be from the IRS too.  If you are not sure, contact the IRS directly.

Tax Preparer Fraud

Keep in mind, as a taxpayer you are legally responsible for the information you represent on your tax return, even if the tax return is prepared by a third-party professional.

“Free Money” from the IRS

There is NO SUCH THING as “free money” from the IRS. Be skeptical of flyers and advertisements promising you “free money” from the IRS. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Need Help?

Contact the North Carolina Low-Income Tax Clinic.

Check out our other Tax Season Resources:

What to remember this Tax Season

What NOT to do when filing your taxes

Charlotte Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty for Filing False Tax Returns

from WSOC TV:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte tax preparer pleaded guilty in federal court Friday for filing false tax returns for her clients and for herself.

Andrivia Wells entered a guilty plea for three out of 35 counts, including aiding and assisting the filing of false tax returns and filing false tax returns for herself. She did not address a charge related to obstructing criminal investigators from the IRS.

From 2011 through 2019, Wells ran Rush Tax Service out of three locations: Beatties Ford Road, Nevin Road and North Tryon Street. Federal prosecutors say Wells prepared more than 6,000 tax returns and received more than $1.2 million in fees from her clients. Oftentimes, the tax fees were taken from the clients’ tax refunds and clients were unaware of how much they were being charged, which was frequently more than $500.

According to the indictment filed in 2019, Wells filed clients’ tax returns with fabricated items, including wages, filing status, American Opportunity Credits, education credits, Schedule C business income and losses and more. The clients did not know what Wells was doing until they were contacted by the IRS with questions about items on their returns.

Shortly after Wells was notified about the investigation, prosecutors allege she set her Beatties Ford Road office location on fire. It was the very same day her summons response was due. The fire destroyed client files, financial records, and computer hardware.

If you’d like to safeguard your filings this tax season and you make less than $56,000 a year, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy attorney Arthur Bartlett said taxpayers should consider going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site. There are locations across Mecklenburg County, and it’s sponsored and funded by the IRS.

If you do have to pay someone to file your taxes, Bartlett said to remember this important tip.

“Make sure you know you’ve looked at the return as best you can and you’ve asked questions where it doesn’t make sense because ultimately the IRS is going to hold you responsible, very likely, if the one you looked at and signed is the one that’s filed.”

The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is assisting Wells’ victims. You can reach them at 704-376-1600.

Thoughts on Tax Advocate Nina Olson

Senior attorney Soreé Finley recently reflected on her first interaction with National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who retires today after a long career of fighting for fair tax policies for all Americans. This blog post originally appeared in Procedurally Taxing.

I can’t remember the exact year of my first Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) conference. I do however remember the elevator ride to the Hilton’s meeting rooms: There are several attendees on the elevator, all hoping to be seated by 8:30 a.m. I am a new attorney and I want to impress my LITC director with my timeliness, but I’m struggling with the early start time.

I walk into this big meeting room, and there’s a nervous and excited energy among the attendants. I’m nervous too, of course—it’s my first legal conference, and I’m in a room full of attorneys. As I look for my table, I keep hearing the word “N.I.N.A.”, and figure it’s one more IRS acronym I’ll have to learn.

I sit at my table as my watch displays “8:30.” Someone approaches the podium and the room goes silent. It’s Nina—not N.I.N.A.—Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate. For the first time, but not the last, I am blown away by her profound and contagious commitment to taxpayer advocacy.

Years after my first introduction to Ms. Olson, I am still inspired by her courage and willingness to ensure taxpayers and tax practitioners have a positive and consistent experience when interfacing with the IRS. There are millions of taxpayers who may never know Nina Olson’s name, but her legacy and impact on taxpayer advocacy will continue long after she retires.

Ofrecen protección al contribuyente

Charlotte N.C.- El Servicio y Defensa al Contribuyente en colaboración con el Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte llevarán a cabo el lunes 15 de julio un taller informativo sobre la resolución de problemas de impuestos.

El taller que será impartido en español, está dirigido a contribuyentes que tiene algún caso existente con el Servicio de Rentas Internas, IRS, ya sea de colección o acuerdo de pagos, auditorias, apelaciones, robo de identidad, que necesiten representación en la corte de impuestos o tengan preguntas sobre su devolución de impuestos, de individuales o negocios.

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