Chicago – As the April 18 income tax filing deadline quickly approaches, Attorney General Kwame Raoul today issued guidance to help Illinoisans protect their personally-identifiable information, avoid scam tax preparers and be wary of tax refund loans.
“The best preventative action Illinoisans can take to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to protect their personal information,” Raoul said. “As the tax filing deadline quickly approaches, I encourage tax filers take advantage of free resources and information available to them.”
Raoul is reminding Illinoisans who need help preparing their taxes to seek assistance from reputable sources such as Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Taxpayer Advocate Service, which offers information on services available to low and moderate-income individuals, individuals with disabilities, individuals age 60 and older, and limited-English speakers. Free tax form preparation information can be found on the IRS Free File Online Lookup Tool, and free in-person tax assistance locations are also available through the IRS website.
Attorney General Raoul encourages consumers to verify the legitimacy of tax preparers by finding reviews online and through the Better Business Bureau, where they can learn whether a preparer is licensed or credentialed, the status of that license or credential, and whether the preparer has faced any disciplinary actions. Raoul also urges people using tax preparers to review all documents and pay close attention to what they are asked to sign, as scam tax preparers may try to use customers’ e-signatures to sign documents unrelated to tax filings.
Additionally, the public should be aware that certified public accountants must be registered with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), and they can be searched on IDFPR’s website. Attorneys can be verified by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, and enrolled agents can be verified by visiting IRS.gov and searching for “verify enrolled agent status.”
Raoul also encourages consumers to be wary of tax refund loans or refund anticipation loans, often marketed as “instant cash advances.” These programs are real loans that charge consumers interest and potentially other unnecessary fees using anticipated tax refunds as a security. The products themselves can be in the form of loans, prepaid debit cards or checks, and are subject to a 36% annual percentage rate cap. Not only are tax refund loans often not worth the extra costs, but consumers rarely receive money faster than they would through a typical refund. Click here to learn more about refund anticipation loans.
Raoul also offered the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from scammers:
If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, call the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit at 866-999-5630. Individuals who need to report a complaint involving a tax preparer or tax refund anticipation product should visit the Attorney General’s website or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud hotlines:
1-866-310-8398 (Spanish-language hotline)