The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert following ongoing concerns about a series of tax scams and inaccurate social media advice that led thousands of taxpayers to file inflated refund claims during the past tax season.

The IRS warned taxpayers not to fall for these scams centered around the Fuel Tax Credit, the Sick and Family Leave Credit and household employment taxes. The IRS has seen thousands of dubious claims come in where it appears taxpayers are claiming credits for which they are not eligible, leading to refunds being delayed and the need for taxpayers to show they have legitimate documentation to support these claims.

For taxpayers who did fall for these traps, they need to follow steps to verify their eligibility for the claim. Some taxpayers could also face steep financial penalties, potential follow-up audits or criminal action for improper claims. The IRS encourages people to review the guidelines, talk to a trusted tax preparer and, in some cases, file an amended return to remove claims for which they’re ineligible to avoid potential penalties.

“Scam artists and social media posts have perpetuated a number of false and misleading claims that have tricked well-meaning taxpayers into believing they’re entitled to big, windfall tax refunds,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “These bad claims have been caught during our fraud review process. Taxpayers who filed these claims should realize they’ve been tricked, and they face an extensive review process and a long potential wait if they’re owed a refund for other things.”

The IRS has identified three common themes that continue to pop up among these bad refund claims. They involve legitimate tax provisions, but they are limited to very specialized situations. The vast majority of the related claims coming in do not qualify:

Fuel Tax Credit: This specialized credit is designed for off-highway business and farming use. Taxpayers need a business purpose and a qualifying business activity such as running a farm or purchasing aviation gasoline to be eligible for the credit. Most taxpayers don’t qualify for this credit.

Credits for Sick Leave and Family Leave: This specialized credit is available for self-employed individuals for 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic; the credit is not available for 2023 tax returns. The IRS is seeing repeated instances where taxpayers are incorrectly using Form 7202, Credits for Sick Leave and Family Leave for Certain Self-Employed Individuals, to incorrectly claim a credit based on income earned as an employee and not as a self-employed individual.

Household employment taxes: Taxpayers “invent” fictional household employees and then file Schedule H (Form 1040), Household Employment Taxes, to claim a refund based on false sick and family medical leave wages they never paid.

Potentially fraudulent refunds frozen; improper claims could face follow-up compliance action

Given the questionable nature of many of these claims, the IRS has frozen the refunds for these taxpayers. Taxpayers whose refunds have been frozen will generally receive one of several letters from the IRS asking for additional information. These letters apply to potentially frivolous tax returns, which includes incorrect claims for Fuel Tax Credits, Sick and Family Leave Credits and household employment taxes.

To avoid penalties and potential follow-up action by the IRS, taxpayers who incorrectly filed for these claims need to promptly submit an accurate tax return without the claims. Taxpayers can visit the tool Should I file an amended return? to determine if they should amend their 2023 return. Taxpayers in this situation can also visit a reach out to a member of our team for advice.

The IRS noted that the entire refund amount is frozen on returns with these bad claims. Taxpayers will not receive any portion of their refund, even if they also claimed legitimate credits.


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