News from the IRS

Public Announcements:

February 7, 2019
IRS: Don’t be victim to a ‘ghost’ tax return preparer

IR-2019-09

WASHINGTON – Today, towards the end of the second full week of the 2019 tax filing season, the Internal Revenue Service warned taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN.

But ‘ghost’ preparers do not sign the return. Instead, they print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, for e-filed returns, they prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer.          

According to the IRS, similar to other tax preparation schemes, dishonest and unscrupulous ghost tax return preparers look to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on a percentage of the refund. These scammers hurt honest taxpayers who are simply trying to do the right thing and file a legitimate tax return.

Ghost tax return preparers may also:

  • Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt.
  • Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds.
  • Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account. 

The IRS urges taxpayers to review their tax return carefully before signing and ask questions if something is not clear. And for any direct deposit refund, taxpayers should make sure both the routing and bank account number on the completed tax return are correct. 

The IRS offers tips to help taxpayers choose a tax return preparer wisely. The Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers by type of credential or qualification.

Taxpayers can report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their tax return without their consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.


 

January 28, 2019
IRS kicks off 2019 tax-filing season as tax agency reopens;
 Use IRS.gov to avoid phone delays
View this message on the IRS website by click here.

IR-2019-07

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service successfully opened the 2019 tax-filing season today as the agency started accepting and processing federal tax returns for tax year 2018. Despite the major tax law changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS was able to open this year’s tax-filing season one day earlier than the 2018 tax-filing season.

More than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2018 tax year are expected to be filed, with the vast majority of those coming before the April tax deadline. Through mid-day Monday, the IRS had already received several million tax returns during the busy opening hours.

"I am extremely proud of the entire IRS workforce. The dedicated IRS employees have worked tirelessly to successfully implement the biggest tax law changes in 30 years and launch tax season for the nation," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Although we face various near- and longer-term challenges, our employees are committed to doing everything we can to help taxpayers and get refunds out quickly."

Following the government shutdown, the IRS is working to promptly resume normal operations.

“The IRS will be doing everything it can to have a smooth filing season,” Rettig said. “Taxpayers can minimize errors and speed refunds by using e-file and IRS Free File along with direct deposit.”

The IRS expects the first refunds to go out in the first week of February and many refunds to be paid by mid- to late February like previous years. The IRS reminds taxpayers to check “Where’s My Refund?" for updates. Demand on IRS phones during the early weeks of tax season is traditionally heavy, so taxpayers are encouraged to use IRS.gov to find answers before they call.

April deadline; help for taxpayers through e-file, Free File

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17 to file their returns.

With major changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS encouraged taxpayers seeking more information on tax reform to consult two online resources: Publication 5307, Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families, and Publication 5318; Tax Reform What’s New for Your Business. For other tips and resources, visit IRS.gov/taxreform or check out the Get Ready page on IRS.gov.

The IRS expects about 90 percent of returns to be filed electronically. Choosing e-file and direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. 

The IRS Free File program, available at IRS.gov, gives eligible taxpayers a dozen options for filing and preparing their tax returns using brand-name products. IRS Free File is a partnership with commercial partners offering free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $66,000 or less. About 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. People who earned more than $66,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.

 Most refunds sent in less than 21 days; EITC/ACTC refunds starting Feb. 27

The IRS expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a tax return may require additional review and take longer. “Where’s My Refund?” has the most up to date information available about refunds. The tool is updated only once a day, so taxpayers don’t need to check more often.

The IRS also notes that refunds, by law, cannot be issued before Feb. 15 for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. This applies to the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. While the IRS will process the EITC and ACTC returns when received, these refunds cannot be issued before Feb. 15. Similar to last year, the IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to actually be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb. 27, 2019, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

“Where’s My Refund?” ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go mobile app remain the best way to check the status of a refund. “Where’s My Refund?” will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC and ACTC refund filers on Feb. 17, so those filers will not see a refund date on “Where's My Refund?” ‎or through their software packages until then. The IRS, tax preparers and tax software will not have additional information on refund dates, so these filers should not contact or call about refunds before the end of February.

This law was changed to give the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. Even with the EITC and ACTC refunds and the additional security safeguards, the IRS still expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a particular tax return may require additional review and a refund could take longer. Even so, taxpayers and tax return preparers should file when they’re ready. For those who usually file early in the year and are ready to file a complete and accurate return, there is no need to wait to file.

New Form 1040

Form 1040 has been redesigned for tax year 2018. The revised form consolidates Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040-EZ into one form that all individual taxpayers will use to file their 2018 federal income tax return.

The new form uses a “building block” approach that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations will only need to file the Form 1040 with no additional schedules. People who use tax software will still follow the steps they’re familiar with from previous years. Since nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software, the IRS expects the change to Form 1040 and its schedules to be seamless for those who e-file.

Free tax help
Low- and moderate-income taxpayers can get help filing their tax returns for free. Tens of thousands of volunteers around the country can help people correctly complete their returns.

To get this help, taxpayers can visit one of the more than 12,000 community-based tax help sites that participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. To find the nearest site, use the VITA/TCE Site Locator on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go mobile app.

Filing assistance
No matter who prepares a federal tax return, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included. IRS.gov offers a number of tips about selecting a preparer and information about national tax professional groups.

The IRS urges all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before filing. This includes Forms W-2 from employers and Forms 1099 from banks and other payers. Doing so will help avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return.

Online tools
The IRS reminds taxpayers they have a variety of options to get help filing and preparing their tax returns on IRS.gov, the official IRS website. Taxpayers can find answers to their tax questions and resolve tax issues online. The Let Us Help You page helps answer most tax questions, and the IRS Services Guide links to these and other IRS services.

Taxpayers can go to IRS.gov/account to securely access information about their federal tax account. They can view the amount they owe, pay online or set up an online payment agreement; access their tax records online; review the past 18 months of payment history; and view key tax return information for the current year as filed. Visit IRS.gov/secureaccess to review the required identity authentication process.

The IRS urges taxpayers to take advantage of the many tools and other resources available on IRS.gov.

The IRS continues to work with state tax agencies and the private-sector tax industry to address tax-related identity theft and refund fraud. As part of the Security Summit effort, stronger protections for taxpayers and the nation’s tax system are in effect for the 2019 tax filing season.

The new measures attack tax-related identity theft from multiple sides. Many changes will be invisible to taxpayers but will help the IRS, states and the tax industry provide additional protections, and tighter security requirements will better protect tax software accounts and personal information.

Renew ITIN to avoid refund delays
Many Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) expired on Dec. 31, 2018. This includes any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years. Also, any ITIN with middle digits of 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 and 82 (Example: 9NN-73-NNNN) is now expired. ITINs that have middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80 expired Dec. 31, 2017, but taxpayers can still renew them. Affected taxpayers should act soon to avoid refund delays and possible loss of eligibility for some key tax benefits until the ITIN is renewed. An ITIN is used by anyone who has tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. tax law but is not eligible for a Social Security number.

It can take up to 11 weeks to process a complete and accurate ITIN renewal application. For that reason, the IRS urges anyone with an expired ITIN needing to file a tax return this tax season to submit their ITIN renewal application soon.

Sign and validate electronically filed tax returns
All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Some taxpayers using a tax filing software product for the first time may need their adjusted gross income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity.

Taxpayers using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter their prior year information to electronically sign their 2017 tax return. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Marc J. Zine
Senior Stakehold Liaison - IRS
Tax Professional & Industry Organizations 
Phone 916-974-5281
Fax 877-477-8639
[email protected]
www.irs.gov/newsroom

Quick Links

Please click here for for the IRS Telephone Directory for California

Click here to download: IRS Tax Forum Fact Sheet: Identify Theft Information for Tax Professionals

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Franchise Tax Board: February 2018 Newsletter


This Just In!
2018 Dirty Dozen

  1. Phishing Schemes Make IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ List of Tax Scams for 2018; Individuals, Businesses, Tax Pros Urged to Remain Vigilant
    IR-2018-39, March 5, 2018 — Following continuing threats to taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service today listed email “phishing” schemes as a top filing season concern and part of the annual listing of the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for 2018.
  1. Phone Scams Pose Serious Threat; Remain on IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ List of Tax Scams
    IR-2018-40, March 6, 2018 — The IRS reminded taxpayers to be careful with continuing aggressive phone scams as criminals pose as IRS agents in hopes of stealing money.
  1. Despite Major Progress, Identity Theft Still on IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ Tax Scams List
    IR-2018-42, Mar. 7, 2018 — Even though reports of tax-related identity theft have declined markedly in recent years, the Internal Revenue Service warns that this practice is still widespread and remains serious enough to earn a spot on the agency’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams.
  1. Tax Return Preparer Fraud Ranks on 2018 ‘Dirty Dozen’: Taxpayers Urged to Choose Reputable Tax Preparers
    IR-2018-45, March 8, 2018 — With more than half of the nation's taxpayers relying on someone else to prepare their tax return, the IRS reminded consumers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous tax preparers looking to make a fast buck from honest people seeking tax assistance.
  1. Fake charities make 2018 ‘Dirty Dozen’ list; taxpayers should be alert to scams involving disasters, worthwhile causes
    IR-2018-47, March 9, 2018 — The IRS today warned taxpayers against scam groups masquerading as charitable organizations, luring people to make donations to groups or causes that don't actually qualify for a tax deduction.
  1. Taxpayers alerted against falsely inflated refunds in ‘Dirty Dozen’ list; Seniors, many others at risk
  1. IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams for 2018 contains warning to avoid improper claims for business credits
    IR-2018-49, March 13, 2018 — The IRS today warned that taxpayers should avoid making improper claims for business credits, a common scam used by unscrupulous tax preparers.
  1. Falsely padding deductions highlighted in IRS 2018 ‘Dirty Dozen’ tax scams
    IR-2018-54, March 14, 2018 — As part of the “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, the IRS today warned taxpayers to avoid falsely inflating deductions or expenses on tax returns.
  1. Falsified income, fake Forms 1099 part of IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’
    IR-2018-55, March 15, 2018  — As part of this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, the IRS warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for schemes that falsify income, including elaborate ruses involving bogus Forms 1099.
  1. IRS warns against frivolous tax arguments; Part of ‘Dirty Dozen’ scams list
    IR-2018-58, March 16, 2018 — The IRS today continued releasing the 2018 list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams with a warning to taxpayers about using frivolous tax arguments to avoid paying taxes.
  1. IRS 2018 ‘Dirty Dozen’ tax scams: Abusive tax shelters make the list
    IR-2018-62, March 19, 2018 — The IRS today warned taxpayers to be wary of abusive tax shelters, which remain on the "Dirty Dozen” tax scams.
  1. “Offshore Avoidance” news release has not yet been posted to the IRS Newsroom at this time, but can be downloaded here.

Posted 2.23.2018

Three Popular Tax Benefits Retroactively Renewed for 2017; IRS Ready to Accept Returns Claiming These Benefits; e-file for Fastest Refunds

Posted 2.8.2018
Key IRS Identity Theft Indicators Continue Dramatic Decline in 2017; Security Summit Marks 2017 Progress Against Identify Theft ~ HOWEVER:

Statement by H&R Block on the Security Summit Success
Feb. 8, 2018

“While the incidents of stolen identity refund fraud have gone down significantly, we can never let our guard down.  The fraudsters are adaptive, and the work of the Security Summit is critical to our ongoing efforts to better protect taxpayers,” said Kathy Pickering, vice president of regulatory affairs and executive director of H&R Block’s The Tax Institute.


Public Announcements

The following Pubic Announcements have been archived below:

IRS: Remote Access Takeover - Click here to read.
IRS: W2 Email Scams - Click here to read.

IR-2017-127, Aug.8, 2017  

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry today reminded tax professionals that their entire digital network could be at risk for remote takeover by . Such a takeover could lead to fraudulent tax filings and damage to their clients. 

Increasing awareness about remote takeovers are a part of the“Don’t Take the Bait” campaign, a 10-part series aimed at tax professionals. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, working together as the Security Summit, urge practitioners to learn to protect themselves from remote takeovers. This is part of the ongoing Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself effort.   

“This is another emerging threat to tax professionals that the IRS has seen on the rise,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “A remote takeover can be devastating to practitioners’ business as well as to the taxpayers they serve. It’s critical for people to take steps to understand and prevent these security threats before it’s too late.”  

A remote attack targets an individual computer or network as the cyber criminal exploits weaknesses in security settings to access the devices. Another line of attack uses malware to download malicious code that gives the criminals access to the network. Especially vulnerable are wireless networks, including mobile phones, modems, and router devices, printers, fax machines and televisions that retain their factory-issued password settings. Sometimes, these devices have no protection at all.  

There are multiple ways that can gain control of computers and other devices. Phishing emails with attachments can easily download malware that, when opened, give the criminal remote control of a computer.  

also can deploy certain tools that allow them to identify the location of and get access to unprotected wireless devices. For example, a printer with a factory-issued password can easily be accessed, and the criminals can see tax return information stored in its memory.  

The IRS urges tax profession also take the following steps to help protect themselves from remote takeovers:  

  • Educate staff members about the dangers of phishing scams, which can be in the form of emails, texts and calls, as well as the threat posed by remote access attacks;
  • Use strong security software, set it to update automatically and run a periodic security “deep scan” to search for viruses and malware;
  • Identify and assess wireless devices connected to the network, including mobile phones, computers, printers, fax machines, routers, modems and televisions. Replace factory password settings with strong passwords.
  • Strengthen passwords for devices and for software access.Make sure passwords are a minimum of eight digits (more is better) with a mix of numbers, letters and special characters;
  • Be alert for phishing scams: do not click on links or open attachments from unknown, unsolicited or suspicious senders;
  • Review any software that employees use to remotely access the network as well as those used by IT support vendors to remotely troubleshoot technical problems. Remote access software is a potential target for bad actors to gain entry and take control of a machine. Disable remote access software until it is needed. 

Additional IRS Resources: