IRS Special Agent Gives Last-Minute Warning: Do These Things Before Filing

This is important advice for everyone doing their taxes as the deadline approaches.

The 2023 tax season is quickly coming to an end—and some of us are still getting our information in order. With the filing deadline falling on April 18 this year, taxpayers have less than two weeks to submit their returns, unless they have an extension. But don't let the stress of last-minute filing get you in trouble—a special agent for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just issued an alert for these taxpayers. Read on to find out what you must do before filing in order to protect yourself.

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Millions of people have not filed their taxes yet.

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If you haven't filed your 2022 return yet, you're hardly alone. The IRS revealed at the beginning of the tax season that over 168 million individual tax returns are expected this year, with the majority coming in before the April 18 tax deadline.

Based on this projection, there are still tens of millions of returns that haven't been filed. The latest data for the 2023 filing season showed that the IRS had only received 80.6 million returns as of March 24.

And that's not unusual. According to a 2022 survey from the financial firm IPX1031, almost one-third of all people in the U.S., or 32 percent of taxpayers, wait to file their taxes until right before the deadline. If you fall into this category, an IRS special agent has some urgent advice.

An IRS special agent is warning last-minute filers to protect their information.

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In a new interview with NBC-affiliate WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, Tony Westendorf, an IRS criminal investigation special agent, said that last-minute taxpayers should be focused on keeping themselves safe from scammers trying to take advantage of their stress.

"The main thing is protecting your information. You are the first line of defense against that," he warned.

According to Westendorf, knowing how the IRS communicates with taxpayers plays a key part in that protection. Con artists will often try impersonating the agency in order to take advantage of taxpayers racing to file before the deadline.

"Knowing that if I receive a social media message from the IRS or an email with a link, saying it's from the IRS or a text message … don't click those. That's usually going to be some sort of malware," the special agent explained, adding that you should also watch for any phone communication, as the agency mostly reaches out through the mail.

"If someone's calling you and threatening legal action against you, or demanding payment via gift card, the IRS won't do anything like that," Westendorf added.

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There are things you should do before filing.

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Trying to figure out your taxes on your own during these final days could leave you overwhelmed. Westendorf told WCMH that using a tax preparation service can help eliminate confusion. But the special agent warned that it's important to be cautious and choose a person or agency you can trust.

According to Westendorf, you should not sign your return and have it submitted before you've read through everything to make sure you understand what is being filed. With that in mind, you also should never sign a return that hasn't been filled out.

"If you're signing a blank return, you don't know what's going on there. Your preparer could put anything on there," he warned. "You want to sign the complete and final return."

You could get fined by the IRS if you ignore this advice.

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Westendorf's advice for last-minute filers is crucial, as there are severe penalties that taxpayers could be subject to. As the special agent explained, you are responsible for anything that is on your return once you sign and submit it—not your tax preparer or preparation service.

If you fall victim to a scheme from a con artist who "helps" you with your return, you will end up paying the cost.

"Taxpayers should remember that they are always responsible for the information reported on their tax returns," IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel warned in an earlier alert from the agency.

For example, scammers have been working to get people to fraudulently file certain credits—like the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)—on their returns this year. "Improperly claiming this credit could result in taxpayers having to repay the credit along with potential penalties and interest," Werfel cautioned.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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