Tips to help protect your identity during tax season

Tax season began this week as the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) bureau reminds taxpayers to take extra steps to protect their identities and wallets when filing their taxes. The filing period in California has been extended to May 15 for individuals and businesses affected by the recent storms and flooding.

“Every year we identify and investigate individuals who perpetrate tax schemes that take advantage of not just our tax system, but of innocent people and businesses who are trying to fulfill their duty to file and pay their fair share of taxes,” stated Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles County Field Office.

Tips to help prevent fraud:

— Choose a tax preparer wisely. Look for a preparer who is available year-round.

— Ask your tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have one.

— Don’t use a “ghost preparer.” They won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you.

— Don’t fall victim to tax preparers’ promises of large refunds. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. All taxpayers must pay their fair share of taxes.

— Don’t sign a blank tax return. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS.

— Make sure you receive your refund. Your refund should be deposited into your bank account, not your tax preparer’s.

— The IRS will not call you threatening legal action. If you receive a call like this, hang up, it’s a scam!

— Don’t respond to or click links in text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS. They may contain malware that could compromise your personal information.

— Protect your personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS.

In fiscal year 2022, IRS-CI identified $5.7 billion in tax fraud, initiated 1,388 criminal tax investigations and obtained 699 criminal sentences for tax crimes.