IRS Warns of Email Tax Scam

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By Cameron Huddleston

If you get an email that appears to be from the IRS and claims that there is a problem with your 2013 tax return, do not respond. It's the latest scam to surface this tax season.

Scammers are sending phishing emails that appear to be from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service and warn taxpayers that their 2013 income has been flagged for review due to a document processing error, according to the IRS.

To resolve the issue, recipients are instructed to contact the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service by clicking on a link within the email. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The link supposedly provides information about the taxpayer advocate assigned to their case or allows taxpayers to review their reported income. However, the IRS reports that the link actually leads to a Web site that solicits personal information -- which thieves can use to steal your identity or access your accounts.

Although the Taxpayer Advocate Service is a legitimate entity, it does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text or any social media network -- nor does the IRS. If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS or Taxpayer Advocate Service, do not reply to it and do not click on any links within the email. Forward the email to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Also beware of phone scams during tax season. Scammers have been calling people across the country claiming that they owe money to the IRS and making threats including arrest if they don't pay up, according to the IRS. Learn more about this phone scam as well as steps to take to lower your risk of fraud during tax season.


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IRS Warns of Email Tax Scam

Taxpayers may forget that donations they gave last year may get them a bigger refund. If you cleaned out your bulging closet and dropped off clothing or household goods at your favorite charity, this may be deductible on your tax return.

Taxpayers taking a full course load and working toward a degree can receive education benefits through the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses. But even those who just took one class to further their career may be able to take the tuition and fees deduction. With this credit, you can deduct up to $4,000 for tuition and fees, books and educational supplies for you, your spouse or your dependents.

Taxpayers can deduct state income taxes, but what about residents of states that don't have a state income tax? In this case, the state and local sales tax deduction is especially useful because these taxpayers can deduct sales tax paid on purchases. Even people who live in states that pay state income tax can benefit if they paid more sales tax due to large purchases.

The earned income tax credit is a refundable tax credit given to filers who earn low to moderate income from their jobs. The credit can be worth up to $6,044, depending on your income and how many dependents you have, but one in five tax filers overlook this opportunity, according to the Internal Revenue Service. You must file your taxes to get it, so even if you make less than $10,000 (the minimum income filing requirement), you should still file your taxes.

If you were looking for a job last year, you may be able to deduct costs related to your job search -- even if you didn't secure a job. Job search expenses such as preparing and sending resumes, fees to placement agencies and even travel related to the job search can be included.

This credit is often overlooked and seldom talked about. If you have an income up to $29,500 ($59,000 for married filing jointly), you can save for retirement and get a tax credit worth up to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for couples if you contributed to a qualifying retirement plan such as an individual retirement account or 401(k). The retirement saver's tax credit is a win-win situation since contributions to your IRA may also be a deduction from income.

Taxpayers who weren't so lucky gambling last year should know that losses can be deducted if they itemize their deductions. However, your amount of losses cannot surpass your winnings, which must be reported as taxable income. For example, if you have $2,000 in winnings and $4,000 in losses, your deduction is limited to $2,000. Make sure to collect documentation such as receipts, tickets and other records to support your losses.

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