Tax season is around the corner once again, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to choose an honest and reliable tax preparer if you are not completing your own forms. The Monterey County Herald details a story about a woman who electronically submitted more than 150 false claims for tax refunds – some from clients who had entrusted her to prepare their tax forms.

Over a four-year period, the Salinas tax preparer along with a co-conspirator, filed the fraudulent claims using her name, actual client names and the names and Social Security numbers from stolen identities. The pair filed the false tax returns with the federal government that claimed tax credits, including the Earned Income Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit and the Making Work Pay Credit. The claims totaled more than $400,000.

The tax preparer was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for her part in the tax-refund fraud scheme and aggravated identity theft. (I bet her victims were aggravated.) She also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay more than $700,000 in restitution to the federal government.

Tax day will be here before you know it. Don’t wait until the last minute to do your taxes and make sure you hire an individual who is qualified. Options include public accountants, a certified public accountant (CPA) or an enrolled agent licensed by the federal government to prepare taxes and represent taxpayers in case an issue arises. Another option is to solicit recommendations from friends and family you trust. In any case, when it comes to tax preparers, make good choices – your refund and your identity are at stake.

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