2014 Dirty Dozen Revealed

Every year around the beginning of tax season, the IRS comes up with its “Dirty Dozen” tax scams list.  In recent years the top three have been (1) Identity Theft; (2) Phishing; and (3) Return Preparer Fraud.  The 2014 list includes Identity Theft and Phishing in the top three again, this time along with “Pervasive Telephone Scams.”  Phone scams often take advantage of recent immigrants, the elderly, or uneducated.  It is easy to avoid a phone scam if you know what to look for and if you maintain a certain degree of skepticism when receiving an unsolicited phone call.  However, as easy as it is in theory, these phone scams must be at least somewhat successful or they wouldn’t be described as “pervasive,” and they wouldn’t have made it to the top of the Dirty Dozen this year.

Here is the Commissioner’s official generic statement:

Taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name. These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues.

The reason that the IRS releases the Dirty Dozen list in February is that they have noticed a spike in tax scams around this time of year.  However, just as the IRS can (and will) collect on delinquent tax accounts by issuing a wage garnishment or bank levy throughout the year, tax thieves and scam artists pretty much work around the clock.

The IRS Dirty Dozen List is Suspiciously Familiar

Wouldn’t David Letterman’s credibility be questioned if he reused the same Top Ten List each night but changed the order of the list?  That’s what the IRS is doing with its “Dirty Dozen” list.  It’s basically the same thing year after year — a stern warning from the Commish about not looking for tax relief amid tax scams, followed by the same 12 scams rearranged in a different order.  Presumably the list is arranged in a logical order with the most common scams at the top.  But is the order of the list based on empirical data, or is it just anecdotal?  Who knows?

This year the obligatory stern warning went something like this:

Taxpayers should be careful and avoid falling into a trap with the Dirty Dozen. Scam artists will tempt people in-person, on-line and by e-mail with misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. Don’t be fooled by these scams.

~ IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman

And the top three scam were . . .

  1. Identity Theft
  2. Phishing
  3. Return Preparer Fraud

Illegal offshore bank accounts was a close 4th on this year’s list, which is not a surprise given how aggressively the IRS has worked shut them down. I don’t mean to make light of tax scams; they are real, and we should definitely stay vigilant. I am just amused by IRS gimmicks, and this looks like another one.