Thursday, April 5, 2012


Recently I was in Chicago speaking at an industry conference.  After my tax program a participant came up to me and said that he had been contacted by a group that promised him a refund due to a “loophole” in the tax law that would give him some type of education credit.  He was going to have to send them some money to have them get the credit for him.  My advise… run.

As a matter of fact the IRS recently issued a warning about the new scheme. Scammers have been targeting senior citizens, members of church groups, working families and other potential victims this tax season.  Just like the person that talked to me, the schemes promise large tax refunds to people who have little or no income and normally don’t have a tax filing requirement. Promoters claim they can obtain for their victims a tax refund or nonexistent stimulus payment based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, even if the victim was not enrolled in or paying for college.

Con-artists falsely claim the tax refunds are available even if the victim went to school decades ago. A variation of the scheme also falsely claims the college credit is available to compensate people for paying taxes on their groceries. Huh?

The schemes can be extremely costly for the victims. Promoters may charge them exorbitant upfront fees to file the tax claims and are often gone before victims discover that they have been scammed.

There is a bigger problem in that regardless of who prepared their tax return, the taxpayer is legally responsible for the accuracy of your tax return and must repay any refunds received in error, plus any penalties and interest. You could even face criminal prosecution.

In recent weeks, the IRS said it has identified and stopped an upswing in these bogus tax refund claims coming in from across the country.