IRS: Don’t be victim to a ‘ghost’ tax return preparer

We are at the end of the second full week of the tax filing season for 2019. The IRS has issued warnings to tax payers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers.

The law requires that anyone who prepares or assists in the preparation of tax returns must have a PTIN number. A PTIN number is a Preparer Tax Identification Number, which is issued by the IRS each year for the current tax season.

A ‘ghost’ preparer may print your return, ask you to mail the return to the IRS, but not sign it. Another tactic is to e-file the return, but refuse to do the digital signature as the paid preparer.

According to the IRS, some ghost preparers are looking to make a fast buck by promising a huge refund, or by charging a fee based on a percentage of the refund. The problem is that these unscrupulous and dishonest preparers hurt honest tax preparers by making us look bad. An honest preparer is concerned about giving you value for the money with a complete and accurate tax return. The actual amount of the refund is a function of the numbers and the credits involved.

Ghost tax return preparers may also:

Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt.

Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds.

Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account.

The IRS has this advice for taxpayers. Review your return carefully before you sign it. Ask questions if something is not clear. If the refund is to be a direct deposit, make sure the routing and account numbers on the completed return are correct.

The IRS offers tips to help taxpayers choose a tax return preparer wisely. The Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers by type of credential or qualification.
Taxpayers can report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their tax return without their consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.

IRS: Don’t be victim to a ‘ghost’ tax return preparer