Here we are … already February is in the rearview.
And while this is certainly a less hectic tax season than the past three, it doesn’t mean things are easy. Taxes have traps for the unwary all over the place. A 400-page tax code ensures that.
More importantly, with the IRS finally getting on top of its backlog and taking in more funding to boost its compliance efforts, you need to make sure your return is solid and mistake-free …. more than ever.
It’s easy to overlook things, claim things incorrectly, and even miss new tax law changes that come out. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t leave much margin for error and isn’t worried about sparing you when they come for you. That’s a problem. (For you, to be clear.)
And, keep in mind, when you’ve filed your own taxes, you’ll also have to face the IRS alone if you run into trouble — that can often mean getting bulldozed by the system.
There’s an easy button solution to all that (and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already pressed it), which is letting us here at Gold Star Tax handle things for you. We root out errors. We check things twice. We stay on top of changes. We are familiar with every line of that complicated tax code.
And, BIG BONUS, once you file with us, we can also take on the role of advocate if you end up having to face the IRS via audit or some other questioning letter.
If you haven’t scheduled your appointment, let’s get that on the books soon.
Now, a quick note before I jump into today’s look at tax scams (a subject I stay on top of and look at carefully for the sake of my contacts). The tennis-style back and forth in Washington continues over student loan repayment and forgiveness. While everyone’s enjoyed the repayment reprieve for going on 3 years, the Biden forgiveness plan is on the chopping block at the Supreme Court this week.
What’s important about that (besides the forgiveness part) relates to repayment.
Currently, repayment is set to begin in August this year, but if that plan gets the ax, then that timeline could get bumped up — something to be prepared for if you’re still paying back student loans.
OK … I obviously have a lot that I wanted to talk about this week, because there are a bunch of scammers coming after my Houston clients these days, and I needed to get this information to you so you can be on your guard when it comes to IRS scams.
Read on …
Protecting Houston People from IRS Scams
“The best protection for the people is not necessarily to believe everything people tell them.” – Demosthenes
I’ve gotta hand it to scammers: They’re innovative, always coming up with new ways to trick you out of your money or personal financial info.
For example, it was probably just minutes after President Biden announced forgiveness of student loan debt last year that con artists hit the internet and started dialing phones to trick people out of hard-earned money with promises of big, quick payoffs on their debt.
Tax season has always been a favorite scammer playtime to prey on fears of the IRS and other tax authorities. Year after year, crooks come up with new schemes and new lies to fool victims.
So as we find ourselves in the throes of tax season once again, I want to prepare you to steer clear of IRS scams. Here’s how you can start protecting yourself right now.
New twists in the world of IRS scams
Phone scammers have been impersonating the IRS for ages, usually claiming the victim owes back taxes and threatening immediate arrest unless you cough up the dough with your credit card number or via a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. This old trick has unfortunately worked on victims who didn’t know what to look for.
HOWEVER, recent times have added new wrinkles to IRS scams:
- Bogus tax-debt relief. For this strategy, scams promise a new Biden program guaranteeing tax-debt forgiveness. They mention a federal “Empowerment Program” to relieve your debt — but you have to send a “tax fee” of some three figures and shipping costs before you get your debt relieved.
Your first question: Do you even have tax debt? Your next action: Call us.
- Saying you owe taxes on something you bought recently. Fraudsters typically bait victims with claims of purchases of big-ticket items on their account. This rip-off uses small dollar claims — often no more than a couple of bucks — in unpaid taxes to lure you into clicking dodgy links.
If you bought anything big recently, reach out to the store or vendor. It’s almost guaranteed that the store didn’t just forget to charge you enough tax…
- Form W-2 scam. These thieves ask for a copy of your IRS Wage and Tax Statement. There are many flavors of this scam; some also try to use wire transfers, titles/escrows, fake invoices, and so on.
Simple response: Don’t send your W-2. Period. Or anything else. If scammers try this one, mail the IRS at email@example.com (Subject: W2 Scam), or for the other variations contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Know what’s happening with IRS scams
The IRS will never call to essentially shake you down for quick payment (or to offer an out-of-the-blue refund). They’ll mail a bill first — several, in fact. They’ll also give you plenty of chances to air your side of a tax dispute over a long time, with representation for you and impartial judges making the decision.
If a scammer calls, record the number and hang up immediately. Call us, of course, but you can also call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 or see TIGTA’s hotline page. Also, report the number to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.
If you receive an email that claims to be from the IRS asking for your personal information or spouting nonsense about taxes from a large investment, inheritance, or lottery, don’t reply and for heaven’s sake don’t click on any links or open any attachments (hello malware …). Email email@example.com and they can tell you more.
The same goes for text messages: Forward the text as-is to the IRS at 202-552-1226. If you can, in a separate text, forward the originating number to the same number.
And should you get an old-fashioned letter in the mail, don’t be fooled by well-copied logos and a lack of typos. Show it to us ASAP if you think something’s fishy and do not call the number on the letter.
Targeted IRS scams: Anti-social behavior
While we’re on the topic, here’s the latest word on scams involving Social Security (another favorite area of crooks).
In addition to the shopworn threats of immediate arrest, if you don’t cough up the cash, scams threaten to suspend your Social Security number or claim to need your personal info or payment to activate a cost-of-living adjustment or other benefits increase. Scammers have also been known to use legitimate names of Office of Inspector General or Social Security Administration employees, spoof government or even police phone numbers, and send official-looking documents by mail or attachments through email, text, or social media messages. Don’t open and don’t reply.
You can keep up with the latest word on scams from the IRS and the Social Security Administration on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, or by subscribing to email alerts.
We know taking care of taxes can feel hard enough without worrying about potential scams. That’s why we’re here to help Houston people like you deal with tax season in all ways — including when a crook tries to take advantage of you.
Looking out for you,