WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers to be wary of “ghost” tax return preparers whose refusal to sign returns can create multiple headaches for taxpayers. The IRS makes it clear that the taxpayer is totally responsible for their returns.

“Ghost” preparers generally do not sign tax the returns they prepare. Like a ghost, they try to be invisible to the fact they’ve prepared the return and will print the return and get the taxpayer to sign and mail it. For e-filed returns, the ghost preparer will prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the hired preparer.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid PTIN (Taxpayer Preparer Identification Number). Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on the return. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.

Unscrupulous tax return preparers may also:

1.)  Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt.

2.)  Invent income to qualify their clients for tax credits.

3.)  Claim fake deductions to boost the size of the refund.

4.)  Direct refunds into their bank account, not the taxpayer’s account.

The IRS urges taxpayers to choose a tax return preparer carefully.  The IRS.gov website can help identify many preparers by credentials and  qualifications.

No matter who prepares the return, the IRS always urges taxpayers to review it carefully and ask questions if necessary before signing. Taxpayers should verify both their routing and bank account number on the completed tax return for any direct deposit refund. And taxpayers should watch out for preparers putting their bank account information onto the returns.

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