As 2012 tax gets underway, community leaders are warning Hamilton County residents about tax scams.
Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann created a partnership between the Cincinnati office of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit and the Hamilton County Coalition to Stop Fraud, Scams and Abuse to spread the word about the dangers of tax scams and direct residents to seek reputable, free tax preparation assistance.
"Fraudulent tax preparers are increasingly targeting residents facing financial hardship who are desperate for extra money, and are offering to help them get larger tax refunds than they are entitled to receive," said Commissioner Hartmann. "We're asking residents to be cautious when choosing a tax preparer and to seek the assistance of reputable community agencies to avoid becoming a victim of these scams."
Tax scammers often target lower-income residents, senior citizens and students.
Unscrupulous tax preparers may target residents at their churches, outside of housing complexes or at their place of business. Materials often advertise an ability to achieve an inflated tax refund. The IRS cautions that scammers usually file fraudulent tax returns with false information about income or household size, and then charge hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees that the victim may have to pay back to the IRS.
"Taxpayers must keep in mind they are personally responsible for the information on their tax return, even if they receive assistance with preparing their taxes," said Darryl Williams, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Cincinnati office of the IRS. "The IRS Criminal Investigation Unit is stepping up our efforts this year to pursue tax fraud, and individuals with fraudulent tax returns can face significant prison time as well as payment of back taxes with interest and penalties."
Residents are encouraged to seek the assistance of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati when preparing their taxes to avoid becoming the victim of a scam. Taxpayers earning less than $49,000 can receive free assistance preparing their state and federal returns from IRS-certified volunteers at 13 community sites across Hamilton County.
A list of the United Way's free tax preparation sites can be accessed by calling the United Way's community service hotline at 211 or clicking here.