Over the past several years, taxpayers—and I mean all taxpayers, from the lowest socio-economic level to the highest—have been victimized or at least contacted by scam artists posing as IRS agents.
Many have had their identities stolen by other scam artists who then filed taxes in their names. Still others have had their taxes prepared by unscrupulous preparers. All in all, taxpayers have been bilked out of billions of dollars by these types of scams.
The good news is that progress is being made. A big call center dedicated to calling and scamming U.S. taxpayers was shut down in Mumbai, India a couple of months ago. And now, the IRS has announced they are making it easier for taxpayers to look up the disciplinary records of tax preparers.
According to AccountingToday.com, “The Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has created a new online lookup table that allows the public to find out more easily if they have hired a rogue tax practitioner.”
Know Who You’re Hiring
So, now all taxpayers can look up a name and find out before they hire someone to prepare their taxes. If that person is on the list they can find another reputable tax preparer. t may not seem like much, but if you’ve ever been scammed by a tax preparer, you’ll truly appreciate this new service. And, if you’ve ever tried to find out this type of information before, the only access was through a paid professional subscription service or public access what through a painstaking process of reviewing each of the announcements of discipline published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin on irs.gov
The new disciplinary look-up tool is basically a Microsoft Excel file. The list includes basic information from the past 25 years on more than 3,000 censures, suspensions, disbarments and other restrictions on practitioners. Examples include permanent injunctions and denials of limited practice to un-enrolled tax return preparers due to misconduct.
The IRS’s OPR plans to keep the document up to date with any new entries whenever a disciplinary announcement is published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin.
The OPR will also update the information to reflect when a tax preparer has been reinstated to practice before the IRS after the end of a practitioner’s suspension or disbarment, and to remove any data related to a disciplinary sanction once the date it was imposed passes the 25-year mark for the OPR’s record retention requirement.
So, at least the IRS is putting the squeeze on unscrupulous tax preparers. And as long as enough people know about and use the new tool there will be less scamming in that arena. As far as I’m concerned anything that keeps taxpayers safe from criminal preparers is something to be thankful for anytime of the year. It just so happens that this news comes at a time when we can all benefit from having more things to be grateful for.