Kelly Phillips Erb
With tax season in full swing (it kicked off January 27, 2020), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a reminder to taxpayers to avoid unethical "ghost" tax return preparers.
A ghost preparer is a paid tax preparer who isn't on the IRS' radar because he or she doesn't have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). And to stay hidden, a ghost preparer will take money from a taxpayer to prepare a tax return but not sign the return which means that, to the IRS, the return appears to be self-prepared. For e-filed returns, the ghost will prepare but refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.
By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid PTIN. Paid tax preparers are supposed to sign and include their PTIN on the taxpayer's return. But some tax preparers do not, often because they don't want to be responsible for the consequences. Those preparers are referred to in the business as ghost preparers or black market preparers. Read more.