• How to Spot A “Ghost” Tax Return Preparer

    May 15, 2021
  • Person in a long black sleeve shirt sitting at a white table filing a tax return

    Tax season can undoubtedly be stressful and a bit expensive for some individuals. Unfortunately, these emotions are what attract ghost tax preparers that perform illegal tax services at a cheap price. Tax scammers – also known as ghost preparers – are not part of the IRS and do not have the proper identification or training to file a tax return but come across to customers as completely reliable.

    It is only until the service is complete and you have paid the fraudulent preparer that they refuse to sign the document allowing you to get your refund. Now you will have no choice but to completely restart the process and pay even more upfront costs to a professional tax advisor. Thankfully, we have come up with 4 signs to look out for when it comes to identifying a ghost tax preparer. Keep reading below on how to spot and avoid them!

    Require Cash Only Payments

    Many tax scammers require cash payments for their services to steal your money without any documentation to prove it. If you are looking for a reliable and affordable tax preparer, never give your information to one that requires upfront cash payments before starting the filing process. This is a major red flag, as all professional tax service companies welcome multiple forms of payment that are granted by the IRS and only charge for their services after your tax session is complete.

    White computer keyboard with a yellow and black tax scam warning sign on keysPersuade You to Lie on Your Returns

    Tax scammers have nothing to lose – they cannot get in trouble with the IRS if they are never caught, so oftentimes, these ghost preparers will persuade you to lie about the types of deductions or claims on your tax returns to make it seem like you are getting a massive return. While it may seem tempting and harmless to some, providing false information on your tax return is a serious offense that could leave you just as guilty. If your tax preparer is offering to add fake deductions to your taxes, leave immediately and file a report against them.

    Want You to Give Important Information Over the Phone

    Giving information over the phone may seem harmless enough but giving out very personal information can lead to identity theft and wrongful tax claims in your name. At JLW Tax & Bookkeeping Services, our tax professionals, and many others like us never ask for personal information over the phone as a precaution for your safety. If your tax preparer demands information from you over the phone, chances are they are illegitimate and cannot be trusted.

    Man in a black ski mask with a black jacket, blue shirt, and pink tie holding a piece of paper with tax information on itRefuse to Verify Your Banking Information

    It may be easy to forget, but you should always verify your banking information with your tax preparer before filing your taxes. Oftentimes, ghost preparers will write their own banking information in place of yours in order to have access to your account. If your tax preparer does not automatically repeat your banking information, ask them to repeat it and if they cannot, immediately cancel your service and find a reliable JLW tax professional to consult with.