“What to do if you suspect you’ve been a victim”

State Department of Revenue and the IRS will look into some complaints about tax preparers.

By Brad Schrade

If you suspect your tax preparer of fraud or mistakes on your tax return, it’s important to correct the problems or you’ll risk paying fines that can grow over time, according to experts. You might also want to get a second opinion.   

“If you have a feeling your taxes weren’t properly filed, you can take them to another tax preparer or take them to a CPA (certified public accountant),” said Liz Coyle, with Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group.   

No state agency or board licenses tax preparers in Georgia, but the state Department of   Revenue will investigate if complaints are serious.    “We’ll investigate complaints that are brought to our attention, but our only avenue at that point would be some kind of criminal prosecution,” said Lynne Riley, state revenue commissioner.    The Internal Revenue Service also fields complaints related to tax preparers.   

An AJC/Channel 2 Action News investigation focused on a tax preparer in South Fulton County, Ruth Barr, who had a history of fraud and customer complaints. The state opened a criminal investigation as a result of reporters’ questions and found thousands of suspicious tax returns, some going   back years.    “We’re going to reach out to the taxpayers that were her clients   that have suspicious returns, and we’re going to work with them to get their returns corrected   ,” said Josh Waites, chief investigator with the Georgia Department of Revenue. “Unfortunately, most of those taxpayers are going to owe us that money back.”   

If you suspect fraud or have questions, call the state Department of Revenue at 877-423-6711 and press option 3. Or, send them an email at  dor.osi@dor.ga.gov

For questions about choosing a tax preparer or advice on what red flags to watch for, consumers can email Georgia Watch at  georgiawatch@georgiawatch.org  or call 404-525-1085 or toll free at 866-339-2824.   Low-income taxpayer clinics in each state can offer guidance. The Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at Georgia State University is part of the network. They help low-income taxpayers with advice on federal taxes and can be reached at 404-413-9230.

SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution