Tax season is quickly approaching. According to its website, the IRS received 149,684,000 individual income tax returns in 2014 as of December 26, 2014 (2014 Filing Season Statistics). Of these returns, the IRS states that more than half were prepared by hired tax professionals. If you decide to hire a tax professional to prepare your tax return this year, it is essential to choose them carefully to avoid hiring an abusive return preparer.
What is an abusive return preparer?
The IRS defines a return preparer as “any person (including a partnership or corporation) who prepares, for compensation, all or a substantial portion of a tax return or claim for refund under the income tax provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.” An abusive return preparer is a return preparer who engages in return preparer fraud, which involves preparing and filing false income tax returns.
An abusive tax return preparer may use different methods to commit this type of fraud. For instance, he or she may prepare a false Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, to claim deductions for fake expenses to counterbalance income derived from outside employment. Another method is to take false and overstated deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, for charitable contributions and medical expenses. An abusive return preparer may also claim fake Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss, losses. Finally, he or she may include impermissible credits or excessive exemptions to lower taxable income or taxes owed.
How do you avoid an abusive return preparer?
To avoid an abusive return preparer, the IRS lists several helpful tips on its website:
Regardless of whether or not you hire a return preparer, remember that you are responsible for the information on your tax return, including all related schedules, forms, and supporting documentation. If there is something on your return that does not make sense or that you do not understand, always ask your return preparer to explain it and correct it, if necessary. You do not want to be liable for additional taxes, interest, and possible penalties when the IRS discovers your false return.