We are now towards the end of the second full week of the 2019 tax filing season, and the Internal Revenue Service wants to warn you all to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost 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, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN.
But ‘ghost’ preparers don't sign the return. Instead, they will print the return and tell you to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, for e-filed returns, they prepare it but will refuse to digitally sign anything as the paid preparer.
Similar to other tax preparation schemes, dishonest and unscrupulous ghost tax return preparers look to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on a percentage of the refund.