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IRS-Criminal Investigation’s 10 Tips to Help Texans Avoid Tax Season Fraud

HOUSTON – Each year, taxpayers’ personal information is compromised through phishing scams or by unscrupulous tax preparers. With tax season kicking off Jan. 24, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) wants taxpayers to be aware of tax-related fraud.

“As the law enforcement division of the IRS, we investigate all types of criminal tax and financial fraud cases and make prosecution recommendations to the Department of Justice, so we know well that proactively following the IRS’s tips will help you avoid from being defrauded or even committing tax fraud yourself,” said Houston Field Office Special Agent in Charge Ramsey Covington. “By being a little bit more cautious this tax season, you’ll be better prepared against corrupt tax preparers and identity thieves.”

Tips to avoid tax season fraud include:

Choose a tax preparer wisely. Look for a preparer who is available year-round.

Ask your tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have one.

Don’t use a ghost preparer. They won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you.

Don’t fall victim to tax preparers’ promises of large refunds. Taxpayers must pay their fair share of taxes.

Don’t sign a blank tax return. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS.

Make sure you receive your refund. Your refund should be deposited into your bank account, not your tax preparer’s.

The IRS will not call you threatening legal action. If you receive a call like this, hang up. Don’t respond to text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS. They may contain malware that could compromise your personal information.

Don’t click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages about your tax return. These messages are fraudulent.

Protect your personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS.

Following tips like numbers 1 and 4 (choose a tax payer wisely and don’t fall victim to promises of large refunds) would have helped tax payers avoid someone like Tiffany Phenix. Phenix pleaded guilty last April to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. She was sentenced to 15 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release and ordered to pay $284, 826 in restitution.

As part of her plea, she stipulated she prepared a total of 37 false income tax returns for clients and four false income tax returns for herself, resulting in an intended tax harm to the IRS of over $284,000. Specifically, Phenix admitted preparing a false 2015 income tax return for a taxpayer which included creating a false form W-2. She also claimed on the return false wage amounts, a false Earned Income Tax Credit and a false income tax refund.

For more tips on choosing a tax professional or how to file a complaint against one, visit IRS. gov. Taxpayers who suspect tax violations by a person or business, may report it to the IRS using Form 3949A, Information Referral. Taxpayers can report phishing emails to [email protected] or IRS impersonation scams to

This year’s tax season begins Monday, Jan. 24 and continues through Monday, April 18 for most taxpayers. U.S. taxpayers are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources and must report all taxable income and pay taxes according to the Internal Revenue Code. Taxpayers found to be committing fraud may be subject to penalties including payment of taxes owed plus interest, fines and jail time.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, and is the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a nearly 90 percent federal conviction rate.

The IRS-CI’s Houston Field Office encompasses the U.S. District Court’s Southern and Western districts of Texas, with field office boundaries ranging from Houston to El Paso and from Waco to Laredo. Due to the proximity to the Mexican international border and having some of the fastest-growing cities and counties in the United States within its jurisdiction, Houston special agents work a variety of cases, emphasizing traditional tax-related crimes such as employment tax, corporate fraud, identity theft, unscrupulous return preparers and general fraud. The Houston Field Office also provides crucial support to task forces involving counterterrorism, public corruption, human trafficking, drugs, and complex money laundering violations.

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