Working on taxes? Beware of scams, shady preparers

The deadline for filing federal tax returns is just a few weeks away. Navigating those tax forms can be difficult and many Nebraskans turn to a professional to help finish the feat. Janet Oakes, with the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation department, says it’s important to choose that person carefully.
Oakes says: “Look for — are they going to be around for a while? Why are they basing their fee on the amount of the refund? Ask questions. Make sure you go to someone you can trust.” She says Nebraskans are ultimately responsible for what ends up on their tax returns.
Another concern this time of year is the type of scam known as “phishing,” according to IRS spokesman Christopher Miller. “The IRS does not initiate email contact with taxpayers,” Miller says. “If you get an email that says you’re getting a refund from the IRS, it’s a scam.”
Miller urges taxpayers to visit www.IRS.gov and review what benefits they can receive, then use that information to avoid filing a fraudulent tax return. “Know what you may be eligible for and what you aren’t eligible for,” Miller says. “If someone tries to tell you that you could get a large refund that you’re not used to, that should be a red flag.”
He says Nebraskans who get questionable email messages that claim to be from the IRS should pass them along. Miller says, “Send the email to a special mailbox at phishing@irs.gov┬áso we can try to shut the site down.”
Oakes says the emails may look very authentic, but she warns Nebraskans not to be duped. “It’s not a mistake,” she says. “It’s not an oversight. It’s something that someone knowingly set out to do.” Oakes says mistakes on tax returns and obvious attempts to scam the government are fairly easy to spot.
The federal tax filing deadline is April 15th.