Blog

Paying Taxes, Safe and Sound

By Jon Fox
Consumer Advocate

Taxpayers today have many options when it comes to paying federal and state taxes. It can get confusing and stressful, but it needn’t be. The simplest and fastest way to file your taxes is online using a trusted and secure service. CALPIRG research found that prices for tax preparation services can vary, and recommend shopping around for the best offer. To help taxpayers, CALPIRG released a new Questions & Answer guide to paying taxes.

Our Q&A higlights common scams Californians should avoid, such as:

Bogus email tax scams: The IRS does not initiate email correspondence with taxpayers. Never respond to emails supposedly from the IRS asking for personal information since these are likely phishing scams. Whether asking recipients to click on the email's embedded link that takes them to a website which asks for their personal information or opening attachments – these request are bogus. Neither the IRS nor reputable tax services send unsolicited emails asking to open attachments or send personal information over unsecured networks. These can often lead to taxpayers unintentionally exposing their computers to viruses and other malicious software.

"Instant" tax refund: The IRS reminds taxpayers that there is no such thing as an instant tax refund. "Instant refunds” offered by some tax services are often Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs), and come with high fees and interest rates. While these loans may sound appealing at first glance, RALs can reach annual interest rate of more than 37%.

Identity Theft: If more than one tax return was filed in your name or IRS records show you were paid by an employer you aren’t familiar with - someone may have used your information to submit false tax returns on your behalf. Taxpayers should file their taxes early, to catch identity theft and avoid losing out.

CALPIRG warns Californians to be on the lookout for fraudulent offers or emails that can end up in financial or identity theft. Anyone who believes their personal information has been stolen and used for tax purposes should immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit online at www.IRS.gov/identitytheft or call 1-800-908-4490.

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