HARRISBURG - With the deadline for filing income tax returns rapidly approaching, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Field Office, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, jointly announced a warning to those who are thinking about breaking the law by committing tax crimes including listing recent tax fraud prosecutions and sentences.

“Individuals who fail to file tax returns in a timely manner are taking advantage of the honest taxpayers who finance the government’s operations, and subject themselves to criminal prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed. “We will continue to pursue those who fail to meet the obligations of paying their fair share.”

"As we approach the end of filing season, taxpayers are reminded that preparing and filing false tax returns will result in extremely negative consequences,” said Guy Ficco, Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Office. “Whether you prepare your own tax return or utilize the services of a tax return preparer, remember, you the taxpayer are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your tax return.”

Over the last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted and convicted numerous individuals for filing false federal tax returns and committing tax evasion. Defendants have received substantial sentences for tax fraud, ranging from several years in prison to home confinement. Restitution is mandatory and often includes substantial interest and penalties. 

TAX SCAM WARNING

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS remind tax payers to exercise caution during tax season to protect themselves against tax schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud. Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice to shutdown scams and to prosecute the criminals behind them. The IRS would like to warn taxpayers of a quickly growing scam involving a phone scam whereby criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS.

Similar to other IRS impersonation scams, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. In this most recent scam variation, callers “spoof” the telephone number of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn. Calls may be ‘robo-calls’ that request a call back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the con artist requests personal information, including Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

TAS can help protect your taxpayer rights. TAS can help if you need assistance resolving an IRS problem, if your problem is causing financial difficulty, or if you believe an IRS system or procedure isn’t working as it should. TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers “out of the blue.” Typically, a taxpayer would contact TAS for help first, and only then would TAS reach out to the taxpayer.

In other variations of the IRS impersonation phone scam, fraudsters demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often hostile and abusive. Alternately, scammers may tell would-be victims that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal information. Other characteristics of these scams include:

Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.

Scammers may know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.

Scammers spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local

law enforcement agency is calling.

Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls.

Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site.

After threatening victims with jail time or with, driver’s license or other professional

license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local

law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and caller ID again supports their claim.

Here are some things the scammers often do, but the IRS will not do. Taxpayers should remember that any one of these is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Call about an unexpected refund.

For taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t think they do:

Please report IRS or Treasury-related fraudulent calls to phishing@irs.gov (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).

Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. The longer the con artist is engaged; the more opportunity he/she believes exists, potentially prompting more calls.

Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.

Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

For those who owe taxes or think they do:

Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help.

View tax account online. Taxpayers can see their past 24 months of payment history,

payoff amount and balance of each tax year owed.

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS or other legitimate companies and agencies as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more information visit Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts on IRS.gov.