Tag Archives: Tax Return

Combating Tax Return Fraud – What You Need to Know

WASHINGTON, DC (January 12, 2016) How do you know if someone has filed a tax return using your Social Security number? And what do you do then?

This is happening more and more—the latest General Accounting Office (GAO) report says that IRS paid out over $5.8 billion in fraudulent returns in 2013. IRS does have security measures in place to verify the accuracy of tax returns and the validity of Social Security numbers submitted, but that hasn’t stopped the bad guys from filing returns using other people’s identities—early and often!

“Filing your return early is actually a great way to thwart these fraudsters,” said Kerry Freeman, EA, of Freeman Income Tax Services in Anthem, AZ. “By filing later, you give the bad guys more time to file a false return in your name.”

If you receive a notice from the IRS that leads you to believe someone may have used your Social Security number fraudulently, or if your electronic filing is rejected, Freeman advises that you notify the IRS immediately by calling the IRS’ Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) at 800.908.4490. For the IRS to mark your account to identify any questionable activity, you must complete Form 14039, Identify Theft Affidavit. Mail or fax the form (one or the other, doing both will result in a delay) to the address or fax number listed on the form

The IRS is well aware of the uptick in fraudulent filings and is making efforts to prevent it, such as monitoring Internet “IP” addresses where multiple returns are filed and keeping track of the time it takes to fill out each return online. Scammers prepare returns in rapid succession, unlike most taxpayers, who typically put in time to make sure the information on their return is correct.

Freeman also noted that the IRS is providing increased protection with a personal pin number for taxpayers, known as an “IP PIN”—an identity protection pin.

“An IP PIN is a six-digit number the IRS will assign you if you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft that helps prevent the misuse of your Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns. IRS is not giving out IP Pins to everyone, but if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft you’ll need one.”

Many people feel safer having a licensed professional, such as an enrolled agent, prepare their returns. Enrolled agents (also known as “EAs”) receive their licenses from the IRS and are required to undergo a background check. They abide by a code of ethics and earn annual continuing education. You can find an enrolled agent in good standing on the directory of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA): eatax.org.

EA vs. CPA: Which is Right for You?

By Kayleigh Kulp

Published March 26, 2012

FOXBusiness

When trying to find a professional tax preparer, consumers face an alphabet soup of choices.

Most people turn to the two well-known groups of licensed tax professionals: certified public accountants (CPA) and enrolled agents (EA). No matter the acronym after their name, the first step in your decision-making process is to make sure the person is licensed.

“If they’re able to answer your questions and you understand, that’s when you want to continue to work with them,” says Alan Pinck, an enrolled agent with A. Pinck & Associates in San Jose, Calif. “Communication is key. It shouldn’t be an intimidating situation. We have enough intimidating situations in our lives. When mistakes happen, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion.”

Here’s a breakdown of the two professions:

An EA is authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections, and appeals, according to the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA). EAs advise, represent and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts and any entities with tax-reporting requirements.

EA’s only tend to focus on preparing taxes, and many specialize in tax resolution. In addition to an IRS-administered testing and application process, enrolled agents must complete at least 72 hours of continuing education every three years.

A CPA’s bread and butter tends to be performing tax, accounting and financial services to businesses. Not a ll specialize in taxation, and some specialize in more than one service. Most states/jurisdictions require at least a bachelor’s degree, two years public accounting experience and a passing score on the CPA exam to obtain a license. The IRS does not require attorneys and certified public accountants to complete continuing education, but some state licensing offices have added additional requirements. In Massachussetts, for example, CPAs need 80 hours of continuing education every two years.

Starting in 2013, the IRS will require tax preparers to pass a tax exam and obtain 15 hours of continuing education every year.

To sum it up simply, “Taxes are laws, and accounting is numbers,” Pinck says. The price for preparing a return may even be comparable between a CPA and a EA.

So how do you choose which type of professional is right for you? It’s not always black and white and requires an evaluation by each individual, but here are some general guidelines from the experts:

Choose an EA:

When you have out-of-state returns. Enrolled agents are the only taxpayer representatives who receive their unlimited right to practice from the federal government (CPAs and attorneys are licensed by the states). That means if you need to file in more than one state and eventually need representation before that state in an audit or resolution case, the same EA can do it, Pinck says.

When you need help resolving an IRS dispute or expect to owe. People who don’t have the resources to pursue a taxation attorney often hire EAs instead for civil resolution cases, according to David Miles, an enrolled agent with 20/20 Tax Resolutionin Broomfield, Co. Not only do EAs rates tend to be more affordable, they can their tax law expertise to represent clients in tax proceedings, audit hearings and appeals.

EAs help ensure clients are treated appropriately by the IRS, work out payment plans on the best possible terms, and ensure the IRS follows laws that protect taxpayers, Miles says.

Choose a CPA when:

A little accounting guidance wouldn’t hurt. If you own a small business, hiring a CPA with a bookkeeping and reporting background can help you get organized and on track for the next year. “When you have a couple million dollars in business, some of the accounting can get complicated. We make sure everything is in the right bucket,” says Irene Wachsler, a CPA with Tobolsky & Wachsler CPAs in Massachussetts.

An audit of your business deductions, expenses and income is in order. A CPA’s main differentiator is the ability to attest an audit, which means it affirms to the IRS that financial statements are truthful, says Theodore Flynn, CEO and president of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs. To do that, a CPA will request bank statements and other proof, which limits the possibility of mistakes, Wachsler says. But make sure any professional you hire will guarantee their work on your returns, she adds. That means they agree to represent you later pro bono if there’s a problem with the return.

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