(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—As Ohioans prepare to file their 2011 tax returns, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning them to look out for deceptive tax services and scams.
“During tax season, it’s important to pay attention to the details,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Some consumers say they are being charged very high fees for tax preparation services this year, so be sure to get detailed, written information before giving out your money or personal information. Businesses might make great promises about their services or your expected refund but then surprise you with high fees or errors in your return.”
DeWine offers consumers the following information and advice.
- Tax Preparation: Before having your tax return prepared, find out about all associated fees. Ask for a complete breakdown of what you will be charged and why. Research a business with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau. Free help may be available to eligible taxpayers through the IRS, the Ohio Benefit Bank, or the AARP. Workers that earn $49,078 or less may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
- “Fast” Refunds: Offers for instant refunds may be costly refund anticipation loans or refund anticipation checks. These products may involve substantial fees. Instead of refund anticipation loans or checks, you may be able to file your own tax return electronically free of charge and have the refund directly deposited in your bank account. This process usually takes only a few weeks to receive a refund.
- Property Tax Evaluation: Ohio homeowners who want a reevaluation of their property taxes should be wary of companies that charge fees for reevaluation services. In Ohio, property owners can challenge their property value without hiring a service or paying a fee. Contact your county auditor for instructions on appealing your property tax evaluations and for more information.
- Tax Liens: If an individual owes money to the state, the Attorney General’s Collections Enforcement Section may file a tax lien against the individual. These tax liens are public information, and some businesses may use this information to convince a consumer to pay them to help resolve the matter.
- IRS-Imposter Scams: Some scammers pretend to be the IRS to trick consumers into providing money or personal information. For example, an email about “important tax information” that appears to come from the IRS is likely a scam designed to trick you into revealing your personal information. When in doubt, contact the IRS directly using a number you know is legitimate.
- Tax Identity Theft: Tax identity theft can occur when someone uses a taxpayer’s personal information to commit fraud. The IRS encourages consumers to watch for red flags, such as receiving a letter from the IRS stating more than one tax return was filed with your information or that IRS records show wages from an employer you never had.
“Scammers often try to capitalize on current events,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They know that it’s tax time, so they try to take advantage of the season. By staying on guard and watching for red flags, consumers can protect themselves.”
Consumers should report any suspicious or unfair practices to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or online at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840