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Tax professional warns of scams ahead of tax season


Monday marks the beginning of tax season, and there are a few things people should be aware of before trusting someone to help with a tax return.

The Missouri Department of Revenue will begin accepting electronically filed state tax returns on Monday, the same day the IRS starts accepting federal tax returns for individual filers.

Jackson Hewitt's Chief Tax Information Officer Mark Steber warns to be aware of "ghost" or "fake preparers" who make bold promises and then leave taxpayers dealing with the mess.

"I'm not saying don't trust your tax pro, but if you get that feeling that something is really unusual--taking a pet for a dependent, for example--you might want to double check that and then go revisit who you've engaged to do your taxes," Steber said.

He said common red flags to look out for include:

  • If someone is promising a guaranteed refund or a next-day refund;
  • If someone offers to do taxes for little or no cost; or
  • If a tax preparer won't sign off on a tax return.

"Anybody you give a dollar to do your taxes has to sign it as the professional and put their prepared tax identification number on it," Steber said. "If you get any story short of that, that usually indicates that they're a schemer."

Steber also said tax professionals are required by law to give back personal documents if asked. He said if anyone tries to make someone pay before they return their documents, that could also be a sign of a scam.

People should also be wary if they receive unsolicited communication from the IRS. The IRS will not initiate contact with taxpayers to request personal information via email, text or social media. Its website warns not to click on any unsolicited links claiming to be from the IRS and encourages people to send a copy of the scam to

The Missouri Department of Revenue suggests people file electronically, use direct deposit and double-check their paper return to ensure a smooth tax season. The department has a status tracker tool and a frequently asked questions page on their website.

If taxpayers are looking to hire a professional, Steber advises taxpayers to always do research before paying someone to help with taxes. He said people should check reviews, ask friends and colleagues who they use and call and ask questions.

"(Taxes) make people nervous at the start, and then these bad people smelling money, they come into the system," Steber said. "But there is good news: far and wide, most professional tax preparers are honorable, good people."

He said three out of every four people get a refund every year, with about $300 billion going out to taxpayers. He said that combined with the intimidating nature of taxes and the sensitive information they hold is what makes tax season so attractive to scammers.

He encourages people to file early, which would ensure their data is safely locked in with the IRS and the state. This would ensure people's refunds don't get stolen.

"That way, if somebody bought your information on the dark web or stole it in a data breach or just picked your copy of the tax return you did in the office off the printer last year, they can't swoop in front of you and steal your refund this year," Steber said.

He said if someone does get scammed, a good tax preparer will be able to help fix the problem.

Taxes are due Monday, April 15.

Article Topic Follows: Scam Alert

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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