The Investigators: Busted! Avoiding questionable tax preparers - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Busted! Avoiding questionable tax preparers

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) - It wasn't just the fact that she prepares taxes behind the counter of a barbecue joint.

That was the first sign something was unusual.

It was the activity we found on two of her customers' tax returns -- "child" dependents who weren't children or who didn't belong to the customers, false business credits, bogus college expense deductions -- which alerted the Action News 5 Investigators that Carline Barrett, aka "Coco," may be preparing dubious tax returns.

Our concerns were confirmed when an undercover Investigators producer visited Barrett's "Superior Tax Service" inside Reese's Bar-B-Q, 4606 Winchester Rd. near Parkway Village. 

Despite no W-2 form or any proof of income or dependents, our producer was told by Barrett that she could secure a $2,000-5,000 refund for our producer, depending on whether our producer would consider listing her healthy, independent-living grandmother as a "disability dependent."

Please watch how our hidden camera investigation played out, then take heed of these tips on choosing a tax preparer, according to the IRS:

Choose a tax preparer who:

* HAS GOOD CREDENTIALS (ENROLLED AGENT, CPA, ACCOUNTANT, ATTORNEY)

* IS IN BUSINESS ALL YEAR, NOT JUST DURING TAX-FILING SEASON

* IS RECOMMENDED BY A PROFESSIONAL TAX ORGANIZATION, SUCH AS YOUR STATE'S CPA SOCIETY, ENROLLED AGENTS, PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANTS OR BAR ASSOCIATION

* GETS GOOD MARKS FROM THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU AND STATE CONSUMER AFFAIRS OFFICE

* IS AN IRS-AUTHORIZED ELECTRONIC RETURN ORIGINATOR (SEE www.irs.gov FOR A LIST)

* IS REGISTERED WITH THE IRS AND HAS A PREPARER TAX IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (PTIN)

*NOTE* - If your 2011 income was $50,000 or less or you are an elderly or disabled filer, you may qualify for free tax return preparation at a volunteer-staffed help site. Call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-906-9887 or dial the United Way at 211 to find the site closest to you. Call 1-888-AARP-NOW for more information about free tax help for the elderly.

An honest tax preparer will NOT:

* FABRICATE INFORMATION ON YOUR TAX RETURN

* PROMISE YOU HE OR SHE CAN GET YOU A BIGGER REFUND THAN ANOTHER PREPARER

* TELL YOU THE GOVERNMENT WANTS YOU TO TAKE A CERTAIN CREDIT OR DEDUCTION, EVEN IF YOU AREN'T ENTITLED TO IT

* GIVE YOU A DEDUCTION OR CREDIT THEY CLAIM IS "SECRET," ONE THAT THE IRS DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT

* CLAIM TO BE ABLE TO SHOW YOU HOW TO LEGALLY QUIT PAYING TAXES

* TELL YOU THAT AFRICAN AMERICANS (OR ANY ETHNIC GROUP) ARE ENTITLED TO A "SPECIAL" REFUND FROM THE IRS

* USE INVALID OR "BORROWED" TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS

* "BORROW" DEPENDENTS FROM ANOTHER TAXPAYER

* CHARGE A FEE THAT IS A PERCENTAGE OF YOUR TAX REFUND

* ASK YOU TO SIGN A BLANK TAX RETURN

* REFUSE TO SIGN THE TAX RETURN ON THE TAX PREPARER LINE

* REFUSE TO GIVE YOU A COPY OF YOUR COMPLETED TAX RETURN

The IRS wants taxpayers to understand that taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of your tax return. You can be held accountable for the unethical or illegal activity of your tax preparer.

To report complaints against tax preparers:  http://www.irs.gov/taxpros/agents/article/0,,id=123392,00.html

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

 

 

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