In a Friday press release, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman, with the United States Department of Justice said, "The Tax Division will continue to protect the American public by holding fraudulent tax return preparers accountable. The Justice Department is committed to working with the IRS to stamp out this fraud."
The North Carolina Department of Revenue has said they too are spending more time this tax season reviewing tax returns in an effort to crack down on fraudulent activity.
Raleigh resident Jim Coley has owned a Liberty Tax Service on Glenwood for almost eight years now. Coley has seen cases where taxpayers have tried to be fraudulent to receive a larger tax return.
"It gets painful," Coley said, speaking of the financial penalties the taxpayer and preparer can face.
"Usually you're not going to see identity theft out of a tax office," Coley added. "It's going to be from the big data breaches."
In addition, Coley encourages taxpayers to use reputable firms when filing their taxes. He said he believes going elsewhere can put the taxpayer at risk and open them up to a fraudulent return and their refund stolen.
"If you go to someone who's fly-by-the-night ... maybe they are making copies of social security numbers and sending them out," he warned.
He also said the IRS is cracking down on tax returns sent from the same IP address. This could present itself as a potential risk for someone preparing taxes from their home.
Finally, Coley said if someone files a fraudulent return on your behalf, there may be little protection for the taxpayer. "(The IRS) will know where the returns originated from. But they will not share it with you. Because it's all part of the privacy protections."
Hoggard: So even criminals have protection?
"Oh yeah," Coley laughed.
For tips on how to find a reputable tax professional, visit the IRS' website: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/choosing-a-tax-professional