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February 17, 2016

IRS showcases its Dirty Dozen list of tax scams in 2016

By Franchesca Hashemi

Compiled annually by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list is a warning to tax payers to file their returns in a legally sound manner and stay clear of dodgy schemes.

As US tax filing season hots up, the IRS has made clear it won’t stand for "erroneous" claims made by citizens or accounting professionals hired to do the job. This year the cut off to submit a return to the US authority is April 18.

Identity theft has been listed first in the Dirty Dozen, with the IRS describing it as an ongoing concern amplified by fraudsters deploying new techniques to breach the tax system.

"We urge people to use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues because scams can take on many sophisticated forms", said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Next on the list is a surge in "aggressive and threatening" phone scams, with con artists calling up members of the US public pretending to be government officials and then duping them into parting with cash.

According to the IRS, in January 2016 the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced that 5,000 victims have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam since October 2013.

Also featured in the Dirt Dozen is return preparer fraud, which is explained as unscrupulous tax professionals preying on unsuspecting clients.

The IRS said more than 60% of returns are filed by tax preparers, and while the profession has been recognised for doing a good job, the importance of choosing a CPA or professional with a recognised qualification has been stressed.

"Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected," said Koskinen.

"Most preparers provide high-quality service but we run across cases each year where unscrupulous preparers steal from their clients and misfile their taxes."

Phishing scams, fake charities, hiding money or income offshore, inflated refund claims, falsely padded deductions, excessive claims for business and falsifying income are more scams to stay well clear of, according to the IRS.

The tax authority warns illegal scams will lead to penalties and potentially imprisonment.

"Taxpayers should not falsify their income or other information on their tax returns to improperly claim tax credits," Koskinen continued.

"Misrepresenting facts is cheating and taxpayers are legally responsible for all the information reported on their tax returns", he concluded.

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