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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Hastings

IRS Issues 10 tips to avoid tax season fraud

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

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

“As we come to the start of another tax season, it is an important time to remind taxpayers to protect themselves from the ever-evolving tax schemes that my office investigates in the New England Region,” said Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, Boston Field Office.

Tips to avoid tax season fraud include:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Make sure you receive your refund. Your refund should be deposited into your bank account, not your tax preparers.

7. The IRS will not call you threatening legal action. If you receive a call like this, hang up.

8. 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.

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

10. 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.

On October 28, 2019, Gelin Sterling, a Haitian national, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kari A. Dooley in Bridgeport, Connecticut to 15 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release for filing false tax returns. Sterling owned and operated Sterling Tax Plus, LLC, a tax preparation business. For the 2014 through 2017 tax years, Sterling prepared tax returns for numerous clients that included false mileage expenses, false charitable donations, and other false items. Sterling was also ordered to pay $250,000 of restitution to the IRS and faced deportation proceedings at the conclusion of serving his sentence.

For more tips on choosing a tax professional or how to file a complaint against one, visit 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 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, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and more. IRS-CI special agents are 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 agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 11 attaché posts abroad.


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