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Friday July 19, 2024

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Social Media Tax Advice Warning

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a new warning about scams through social media. The IRS has received thousands of requests for inflated tax refunds. Many of these taxpayers relied on improper or inaccurate social media claims.

There are several specific scams that are promoted on social media. These include the Fuel Tax Credit, the Sick and Family Leave Credit, false household employment taxes and overstated withholding. The improper claims often lead to delayed refunds because the IRS must hold up the return and investigate to understand if the deduction or credit is proper.

Social media is ubiquitous in American society. However, social media posts may come from individuals from foreign nations who do not understand U.S. tax rules. The IRS urges taxpayers to be cautious about social media advice. There is a social media trend toward excessive promises and claims about various types of tax credits and deductions. The challenge for individuals is that many social media comments encourage you to follow the improper tax advice. You may think, “Surely all of these supposedly expert individuals cannot be wrong.”

The IRS has specific recommendations to protect individuals from these social media fraudsters and scammers.

  1. Suspicious Refund Claims — If the IRS receives tax returns with frequently false credits or deduction claims, it will hold up the tax refunds and attempt to verify the claim. This is particularly true for the Fuel Tax Credit, the Sick and Family Leave Credit for Self-Employed Individuals and overstated withholding.
  2. You Receive an IRS Letter — If you receive Letter 5747c, Potential Identity Theft during Original Processing – TAC, you should follow the directions on the letter. It will generally not be helpful to visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) or contact the IRS over the phone. Each letter has specific instructions you should follow.
  3. Filing a Frivolous Return — There are potential serious consequences if the IRS believes that your tax return is frivolous. If your return is not valid, you should file a complete and accurate return within 30 days. If you do not file an amended return, you could be subject to penalties of $5,000 for the improper return or asked to submit to a compliance audit with the IRS. If the abuse is serious, the IRS may initiate a criminal prosecution.
  4. Fuel Tax Credit Qualification — The fuel credit is meant only for off-highway vehicles used in businesses, farms, ranches, aviation or commercial fishing. It is not available to most taxpayers.
  5. Sick and Family Leave Credit — The Sick and Family Leave Credit was enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was available for individuals with a trade or business and was designed to assist self-employed individuals during the pandemic. This credit was only available during 2020 and 2021. It may not be claimed on a 2022 or 2023 tax return.
  6. Overstated Withholding — Another scam that is promoted in social media invites taxpayers to create fictional employees. The taxpayer then manually fills out a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and claims there was a large withholding amount. The taxpayer hopes to receive a large refund for this fraudulent withholding. The IRS verifies withholding claimed on tax returns and is likely to audit the taxpayer.

Editor's Note: During the pandemic, many credits and deductions were passed for valid reasons. However, social media scammers tend to promise far more than is authorized. Taxpayers should be on guard and use a reputable tax preparer to ensure their returns are correctly completed.

Published July 12, 2024
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