For all the fear and anxiety people suffer in the run up to April 15th and the filing of tax returns, lots of taxpayers look forward to the refund to which they are entitled from the IRS as reported in their tax return. But, imagine you were not entitled to that so desirable refund, but a refund was coming to you anyway?
It would be like Christmas in April. Imagine that (indeed, rumor has it that John Lennon’s hit song, Imagine, left out the line “Imagine all the tax refunds….”)
Marketing experts say that there are few words as powerful to persuade as “free.” One enterprising scamster took that concept and ran with it to steal unsuspecting taxpayers’ tax refunds.
While living in sunny San Diego, Maxim Maltsev of Russia, blended the persuasive power of the word “free” with the fact that the IRS has a free electronic tax return filing program, and harnessed the awesome reach of the Internet, to steal tax refunds owed to ordinary taxpayers, looking to get their returns prepared and filed as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible.
Maltsev admitted in federal court in California that he was part of a conspiracy to obtain federal income tax returns requesting refunds before they were electronically filed with the IRS.
The success of the scheme depended upon taxpayers being fooled into using apparently free electronic tax return filing services which were, in fact, fake.
In what appears to be a continuing bid to tell taxpayers that in the current economic downturn the IRS “feels our pain,” has become a kinder, gentler government agency and tax collector, and even perhaps that the days of being a “no more Mr. Niceguy” government agency have passed into the days of “No more ‘no more Mr. Niceguy,'” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman recently reminded taxpayers who may be owed a refund for 2005, but have not yet filed their income tax returns for 2005, to claim that refund by filing their return and to do so quickly to avoid losing it.
This may qualify as a continuing effort in light of Commissioner Shulman’s “I feel your pain” comments, published by the IRS in early January, 2009. See Feb 5, 2009 post in this blog, “IRS to Bail Out Taxpayers?” below.
IRS estimates that there is roughly $1.3 billion in unclaimed refunds for tax year 2005 awaiting more than a million taxpayers around the country. Continue reading