Ghost Tax Preparers March 2019 Tax News

IRS released a tax tip on choosing a tax preparer cautioning taxpayers to choose their tax preparer wisely and warns taxpayers to avoid certain unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost tax preparers.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN.

But ghost tax preparers do not sign the return. Instead, they print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS or, for e-filed returns, they prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer.

According to the IRS, similar to other tax preparation schemes, dishonest and unscrupulous ghost tax preparers look to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on a percentage of the refund. These scammers hurt honest taxpayers who are simply trying to do the right thing and file a legitimate tax return.

Ghost tax preparers may also:

  • Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt
  • Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds
  • Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account

The IRS is looking for victims of “ghost tax preparers” who are willing to share their experiences.

The IRS can provide guidance, ethical tax practitioners can help clean up the mess, but people telling their stories of how they were harmed will make the biggest difference in touching others.

Who can you reach out to with this information?

Email or call IRS Stakeholder Liaison Gerry Kelly-Brenner at or (510) 907-5341 to discuss this further.

If the person wishes to remain anonymous in sharing their experience, IRS will honor their request.