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There weren't any major tax bills in 2016. That's going to change in some form in 2017 now that the Republicans control Congress and the White House. via GIPHY But there still were plenty of tax-related matters that got attention last year. Below is my list of top 10 tax stories of 2016, starting with the one I saw as most important. And as a bonus, I also pulled out my slightly cracked crystal ball -- really, who saw the presidential election turning out like it did? -- to forecast five tax issues that we're likely to see in 2017.... Read more →


Most of us can use some extra cash. That's particularly true during the holiday shopping season. But unfortunately, recent emails I got from two federal financial officials offering unexpected windfalls are fake. Worse, the messages from Jacob Lew and Janet Yellen are identity theft phishing scams. ID theft impersonation scams: I know most of the ol' blog's loyal readers recognize this duo as, respectively, the U.S. Treasury Secretary and the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, popularly known as the Fed. As flattered as I might be to learn that Lew and Yellen follow my... Read more →


Most of us are knee-deep (or deeper!) into holiday tasks, but the Internal Revenue Service thinks it's also a great time to think about security measures that can protect our tax data during the upcoming tax filing season. That's right, smack in the middle of seasonal shopping and parties, it's National Tax Security Awareness Week. The IRS and its Security Summit partners from the tax software and preparation industry, the tax professionals' community and the state tax world are offering tips this week on scams to be guard against, as well as ways to prevent crooks from stealing our IDs... Read more →


Attention users of Internal Revenue Service online options. Some of you soon will be getting letters from the IRS about proving who you are. This is not a scam. The coming IRS letters will be real. Some folks will be getting real letters from the IRS asking them to validate the IDs they use to access online tax services. The mailing is not a scam, but it's always good to be careful when you get any request for personal data. New ID validation effort: The IRS notified tax professionals this week via email that during the next five weeks, the... Read more →


They're back. OK, they never really left. They are tax scammers. And they are once again targeting tax professionals. Specifically, says the Internal Revenue Service, tax con artists have their sights on tax pros who use the agency's e-services. Phishing for tax pro data: The crooks are sending these tax pros an email asking them to update their accounts and directing them to a fake website. The subject line for the fraudulent email is "Security Awareness for Tax Professionals," purportedly coming from "Your e-Services Team." The scam email tells recipients that information was stolen from certain user accounts in 2015... Read more →


It's been a good week in fighting con artists who pose as Internal Revenue Service agents to steal taxpayers' money. First, the Better Business Bureau reported a dramatic reduction in the number of the tax scam calls in which crooks pretend to be IRS agents and demand immediate payment for nonexistent tax debts. If the scam victims refuse, the scammers threaten them with arrest, legal action or deportation. The BBB's scam tracker noted that the fake IRS agent calls slowed after Indian law enforcement agents earlier this month raided call centers hosting the scam. At the time of the raids,... Read more →


Have you gotten one of those fake Internal Revenue Service agent collection calls lately? If not, you can thank Indian law enforcement agents. Does that "IRS agent" demanding money sound fishy? He's probably a tax scammer. Hang up! (Photo by rocketace via Flickr) Since Indian officials on Oct. 4 raided call centers in Mumbai where many of these scam calls originated, the number of attempts to get folks to make fake tax bill payments has dropped dramatically. BBB sees fewer scam reports: The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says that the IRS imposter scam had accounted for around a quarter of... Read more →


Have global law enforcement officers cracked the biggest U.S. tax scam ever? Probably not, but it appears they have at least slowed one major criminal operation. Indian officials raided several call centers outside of Mumbai and arrested 70 people in connection with the extensive IRS impersonator tax scam. Indian investigators this week arrested around 70 people in the Mumbai suburb of Thane on charges of allegedly calling Americans and pretending to be Internal Revenue Service representatives in order to obtain payments for fake tax bills. The arrests, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Guardian newspapers, came the... Read more →


One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Someone just became an identity theft victim. The stealing of an individual's personal data happens every two seconds. That alarming criminal frequency was part of an Internal Revenue Service presentation on ID theft and tax refund fraud during the agency's Nationwide Tax Forum this week in National Harbor, Maryland, just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. The good news, from a tax standpoint, is that that most of those 30* ID thefts per minute are by crooks seeking credit card information. In fact, credit card related identity theft has been the #1 complaint on the Federal... Read more →


While you and I have been enjoying our summer break, tax criminals have stayed on their nefarious jobs. In some cases, they are coming up with new identity theft schemes to steal our personal information and file for fraudulent tax refunds. In others, they are ramping up criminal efforts that are oldies but, from the crooks' perspectives, goodies. Fake IRS calls still coming: In fact, noted the Internal Revenue Service earlier this month, there's been increase this summer of impersonation scams where people get automated calls purported to be from the IRS. It's the largest tax scam ever and it... Read more →


Americans, and particularly the families who suffered incomprehensible loss in the horrific mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, are still trying to cope with the tragedy. Forty-nine families are struggling emotionally with the loss of their loved ones at the hand of a crazed and heavily (and legally) armed gunman. Families of 53 more people who were wounded, some gravely, also are trying to cope with the effects of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Help for affected families: Not only must these people work through the personal loss and pain, many also will face practical challenges.... Read more →


More than 1 million men and women have died during U.S. military service. Memorial Day is when we take special time to remember them and their ultimate sacrifice. To ensure the ultimate hallowed duties of America's fallen heroes are never forgotten, The National Moment of Remembrance Act was enacted in December 2000. This law created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The Commission's charter is to "encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity" by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United... Read more →


Tax scams that invoke the Internal Revenue Service get a lot of attention. That's understandable. The tax code is complicated and the IRS is a source of fear for most Americans. That combination makes it easy for crooks pretending to be with the federal tax agency to scare us into paying them to resolve a purported tax bill. But there are 43 other official government tax collectors out there, and crooks know that they also can use state taxes to scare us into sending them our money. Multitasking small business owners make good targets for state tax focused con artists.... Read more →


Uh oh! The Internal Revenue Service has filed a lawsuit against me for unpaid taxes! Uh no. The call I got today was just another sad attempt to scam me into calling the crooks and giving them personal information or, more likely, sending them a prepaid debit card to cover my fake tax bill. This pervasive and persistent telephone tax scam, as today's message -- my fifth so far this year; haven't the criminals realized by now that I'm a total tax deadbeat?! -- is still making the rounds. Ignore it. But some con artists do tweak their schemes in... Read more →


Milwaukee Bucks players' tax information is now in the hands of identity thieves. The Milwaukee Bucks and fans celebrate a win. (Photo by Jeramey Jannene via Flickr Creative Commons) The National Basketball Association team is the latest victim of an email phishing scam in which crooks pose as corporate executives and ask payroll offices for employees' financial and tax information. Phishing for tax form details: Team officials confirmed reports, first in Yahoo Sports and then at other sports and technology websites, that a Bucks' employee complied with an email request from a person impersonating team president Peter Feigin seeking 2015... Read more →


Sure, King George III's pesky tea tax served as a catalyst for the United States' rebellion against Great Britain. King George III in 1755, courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London. Click image to hear G3's first song, which mentions the tea to-do, in the Broadway musical "Hamilton." But once we worked through that independence thing, we Americans discovered that we still have a lot in common with the United Kingdom. And that includes, unfortunately, tax scams. U.K. HMRC tax phishing: Taxpayers across the pond have been getting phishing emails from tax crooks encouraging them to download an attached document in order... Read more →


This time it's personal. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) introduced the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Prevention Act of 2016 last year after he became a tax identity theft victim. Rep. Jim Renacci, at right, talks with Cleveland WOIO anchors about being a tax identity theft victim. On Monday, May 16, Renacci watched as H.R. 3832, the bill based on his and his wife's bad filing experience, cleared the full House by voice vote. In addition to talking with media in Ohio and elsewhere, Renacci testified in April about his tax ID theft experience before the House Ways and Means Committee, of... Read more →


Last week, millions of last-minute filers got their returns to the Internal Revenue Service. As of April 22, the federal tax collector had 136.5 million returns in hand. The tax gap is kind of like the break in the old Florida Keys bridge: Something's missing (Photo by Ewen Robert via Flickr CC) The number of Americans who completed their annual tax duties by this year's April deadline(s) was slightly ahead of the 2015 filing pace. Before the year is over (and the 13+ million of us on extension get our returns in by Oct. 17), the IRS expects total filings... Read more →


Trust no one. That X-Files admonition has been co-opted for just about everything, but it's particularly appropriate in this time of increasing tax identity theft and refund fraud. It also apparently is taken to heart by the federal office that keeps an eye on the Internal Revenue Service's operations. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) says its Office of Investigations (OI) examines not only outside threats to the tax collecting agency, but also internal issues. "Specifically, OI investigates misconduct by IRS employees which manifests itself in many ways," said Timothy Camus, a Deputy Inspector General with TIGTA. Insider... Read more →


Millions of folks are working diligently these last few days before the April 18 (19th in Maine and Massachusetts) tax filing deadline. Unfortunately, that tax-focused group includes criminals. This afternoon the Internal Revenue Service issued a warning to tax professionals of a new scam that's just started showing up in some tax prep offices. In this latest iteration of tax identity theft, cyber-criminals obtain remote control of preparers' computer systems, complete and file client tax returns and redirect refunds to the thieves' accounts. The IRS says that although it knows of only a handful of cases to date, it wanted... Read more →