IRS Chasing Ghosts

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced it will be sending letters to taxpayers who appear to have had tax preparation assistance by ghosts. Such “ghost preparers” are paid tax preparers who attempt to elude IRS oversight programs by not signing the tax returns they prepare. The IRS warns taxpayers that they should never rely on a paid tax preparer that refuses to sign their tax returns and fails to enter a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

In the letter to be sent to taxpayers, the IRS will inform such taxpayers of how to file a complaint against their paid tax preparers who failed to sign their returns and explain how to choose a legitimate tax preparer in the future. According to the IRS, the goal of the letters is to protect taxpayers by ensuring that all paid federal tax return preparers are registered with the IRS, and that such authorized preparers sign the tax returns they prepare, and use their identifying number when required to do so.

Additionally, on July 7, 2011, the IRS began to send approximately 100,000 compliance letters to tax preparers who failed to comply with regulations governing third-party tax preparation. All compensated tax return preparers must obtain a PTIN and, when required to do so, sign their names and include their PTINs on the returns and refund claims they prepare for compensation. Compensated tax preparers who are not tax attorneys, certified public accountants, or enrolled agents, must pass a competency exam and suitability check.

The approximately 100,000 paid tax return preparers under scrutiny may have used outdated PTINs or social security numbers as identifying numbers on returns they prepared this past filing season. The letters sent by the IRS explain a new oversight program and informs preparers of how to register for a new PTIN, or how to renew an old PTIN.

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