Money and Debt

Tax filing scams

Tax filing scams can happen to anyone. Learn how you can avoid being the victim of a tax filing scam.

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

A tax filing scam happens when someone illegally keeps or takes money that belongs to you or the government. Common scams include:

  • Changing your tax return after you sign it. For example, a dishonest tax return preparer adds his own direct deposit information to steal your refund. Or, a tax return preparer lies about your income to increase your refund and steal the extra money.
  • Filing a return without your permission. For example, a scammer uses your old tax return to submit a new tax return and keep the refund for himself.

Protecting yourself from tax filing scams

To protect yourself from tax filing scams:

  • Choose a trustworthy tax return preparer. If you hire someone to prepare your tax return, choose a qualified professional. The IRS offers lists of professionals. Also, you might qualify for free professional tax filing help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).
  • Review your tax return. Make sure that all of the information is correct and complete before you sign it. Never sign a blank form.
  • Keep a complete copy of the tax return that you sign. Make sure the tax return includes the return preparer’s name, signature and Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
  • Never direct deposit refunds into your tax return preparer’s account. If you use direct deposit, send refunds to your own account.

If you are a victim of a tax filing scam

If you are the victim of tax fraud, you should:

  • Contact the police. Submit a police report.
  • Complete IRS Form 14157 and 14157-A. These are the IRS forms to report a tax preparer for misconduct. Include required evidence listed in the instructions (for example, a copy of your police report).
  • Keep copies of all documents. Always keep copies of all documents for your records.

Free tax-filing resources

Most people with low or moderate income can do their taxes for free using FreeFile’s brand name software or fillable forms.

To do your taxes for free:

  • Visit IRS.gov/freefile. It’s available 24/7.
  • Choose an option. Use the “help me” tool to find a good match.
  • Click “Leave IRS Site.” On an IRS partner’s website, begin your return safely and securely.

Also, you may qualify for free tax help from:

  • VITA. If you have low income, disability or limited English skills, you may qualify for free tax help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
  • TCE. If you are at least 60 years old, you can receive free tax help from Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).

To find the nearest VITA or TCE site near you, use the the VITA locator tool or call (800) 906-9887.

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