BBB Scam of the Week: Don’t File A “Ghost” Return

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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Tax filing season is upon us. This Monday on Good Morning ArkLaMiss, Jo Ann Deal stopped by to share information on how to avoid filing a “ghost” return.

Jo Ann Deal from the BBB of Monroe on "ghost" filing. source: (KNOE)

According to the BBB, a ghost return is done by a preparer who does not sign a tax return they prepare. Unscrupulous ghost preparers will print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. For e-filed returns, the ghost will prepare the return but refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. 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.

Deal shared a list with more red flags seen in ghost preparers.
Ghost tax return preparers may:

• Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt.

• Invent income to qualify their clients for tax credits.

• Claim fake deductions to boost the size of the refund.

• Direct refunds into their bank account, not the taxpayer's account.

Deal adds there are resources to check your tax preparer before filing taxes. The Choosing a Tax Professional page on IRS.gov 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.

Deal also points out for those who can’t afford a tax preparer, there are volunteer services.

One is called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), made up of certified IRS tax preparers who voluntarily prepare taxes. There are a few located in Monroe for anyone in need of assistance.

Lastly, Deal adds that anyone’s personal information can mean a lot of money to people if it’s in the wrong hands.

For more information on ghost preparer and filing visit bbb.org.