Last week the federal court for the Southern District of Florida issued an order permanently barring Gerald Vito, James Eleby and Gerald Vito LLC d/b/a Income Tax Services from preparing income tax returns.  According to the Justice Department who brought the civil action against these defendants, they prepared income tax returns for their clients that claimed phony and overstated charitable deductions, medical expenses and employee business expenses that fraudulently reduced their clients’ income taxes.  Often these defendants deducted additional fees from their clients’ refunds without disclosing the fees to their clients.

Tax season is about to start and there are many phony tax preparers who commit a variety of crimes including those of the Florida defendants who not only attempted to defraud the IRS, but also made their clients, who signed the returns, criminals as well.  Criminal tax preparers also often steal the personal information provided by their clients to make them victims of identity theft.

TIPS

Fraudulent income tax preparers can be found everywhere and because when you hire someone to prepare your income tax returns it is necessary to provide him or her with personal information that can result in your becoming a victim of identity theft or a party to a fraud, you should be particularly careful to check out the legitimacy of anyone you entrust with this job.   The IRS has information on its website to help you choose a tax preparer.  https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional

The IRS also offers a free directory of tax preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.  This can be very helpful in finding a legitimate and competent tax preparer.https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf

A red flag for determining a phony tax preparer is when the tax preparer refuses to sign the tax return.  These scammers are referred to as “ghost” tax preparers.  Here is a link to information from the IRS about how to avoid “ghost” tax preparers. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/beware-of-ghost-preparers-who-dont-sign-tax-returns

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