On the list – what the IRS referred to as abusive retirement plans. The IRS says it is looking for transactions that taxpayers use to avoid the limits on contributions to IRAs, as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions.
“Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets at less than fair market value into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs to circumvent annual contribution limits,” the IRS cautions. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity that is considered prohibited.
“Taxpayers should be wary of anyone peddling scams that seem too good to be true,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “The IRS fights fraud by pursuing taxpayers who hide income abroad and by ensuring taxpayers get competent, ethical service from qualified professionals at home in the U.S.”
The rest of the IRS’ “dirty dozen” are:
(2) Return Preparer Fraud: Dishonest return preparers can cause trouble for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds, charging inflated fees for return preparation services and attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true.
(3) Hiding Income Offshore: Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through the use of nominee entities. Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans.
(4) Phishing: A tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information online. IRS impersonation schemes flourish during the filing season and can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony Web sites. Scammers may also use phones and faxes to reach their victims.
(5) Filing False or Misleading Forms: The IRS says it is seeing various instances where scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Under the scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund. One version of the scheme is based on a false theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for its citizens, and that taxpayers can gain access to funds in those accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to their creditors, including the IRS.
(6) Nontaxable Social Security Benefits with Exaggerated Withholding Credit: The IRS has identified returns where taxpayers report nontaxable Social Security Benefits with excessive withholding. This tactic results in no income reported to the IRS on the tax return, and the IRS says that often both the withholding amount and the reported income are incorrect.
(7) Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions: The IRS says it continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations, abuse that the IRS includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets including situations where several organizations claim the full value for both the receipt and distribution of the same non-cash contribution.
(8) Frivolous Arguments: The IRS notes that promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid (see also IRS Debunks Frivilous Tax Arguments).
(9) Disguised Corporate Ownership: Corporations and other entities are formed and operated in certain states for the purpose of disguising the ownership of the business or financial activity by means such as improperly using a third party to request an employer identification number. The IRS notes that such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes and even terrorist financing.
(10) Zero Wages: The IRS notes that filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS.
(11) Misuse of Trusts: The IRS says that for years unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. “While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and to hide assets from creditors, including the IRS,” according to the update. The IRS says it has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses.
(12) Fuel Tax Credit Scams : The IRS says it receives claims for the fuel tax credit that are excessive. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But other individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and potentially subjects those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.
More information about the “dirty dozen” is available online at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=220238,00.html
The IRS notes that suspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral. The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. The mailing should include specific information about who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. The person filing the report is not required to self-identify, although it is helpful to do so. The identity of the person filing the report can be kept confidential.
Whistleblowers also may provide allegations of fraud to the IRS and may be eligible for a reward by filing Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information, and following the procedures outlined in Notice 2008-4, Claims Submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office under Section 7623.