The IRS warns of these latest tax scams and problems facing filers this season
Every Friday our Personal Finance team will round up consumer news you need to know ahead of the weekend, on a segment we call “Family First” for YFi PM. Read below for this week’s round-up.
Tax filing problems
Yahoo Finance had a special visitor this week: the IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who came by to give us a look behind the scenes at the IRS and shed light on some of the biggest problems facing filers today.
The IRS’s Dirty Dozen calls out the worst of the worst tax scams, and Olson warns that fraudsters are getting more sophisticated in their attempts to steal tax refunds and identities. This has been reflected in the increase in calls to the IRS’s identity theft line. Olson cautions taxpayers to beware of people pretending to be the IRS, giving out fake badge numbers, hacking caller IDs to say it’s the IRS calling you, and even attempting to defraud the hearing and speech impaired through a video relay service.
Taxpayers need to know the IRS will never call or email to demand immediate payment as all taxpayers have the right to question and appeal the amount owed.
Another pain point this filing season: More people are making mistakes on their returns — 200% more than last year. That’s not surprising since the new tax law made things more confusing for everyone — including the pros like accountants and tax attorneys who are all finding it difficult to receive a live representative to speak with at the IRS. If your tax filing has an error, Olson says to expect delays in resolving the issue as well as your refund since it’s not something that can be resolved with an automated machine. A human being actually has to look at your return.
While taxpayers have been frustrated with lower than expected refunds that are down 8.7% year over year, Olson says we could see a bump up in those numbers since families who qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC) as well as the child tax credit will finally be getting their refunds now — beginning the second half of this month.
Arsenic in kids’ juices
Consumer Reports tested 45 popular fruit juices sold across the country and found concerning levels of toxic materials including lead and arsenic in almost half of the tested products.
Nearly half the juices tested had elevated levels of at least one of these substances: cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead, or mercury. These toxins, known as “heavy metals,” can pose serious risk in children including lowered IQ, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, among other health issues. Substantial levels of these elements can also pose health risks in adults. CR is reporting that as little as four ounces of juice per day containing these substances could be a threat for children.
Zombie deer disease
A fatal disease in animals could potentially pose a threat to humans. Chronic Wasting Disease, similar to Mad Cow Disease, has been reported in deer, elk and moose meat in 24 states. Hunters are being advised to have their meat tested before processing, but this process is not federally regulated.
No cases of CWD have been reported in humans, but studies have shown it can be transmitted to primates. Infected deer meat would be the most likely way for it to spread to people, the CDC says.
About 7,000 to 15,000 animals infected with CWD are eaten each year, and that number could rise by 20 percent annually, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Scientists can't say for sure that CWD will cross over and infect humans, but as time goes on and more infected meat is consumed, the likelihood increases, Osterholm said.
The University of Minnesota website states that current diagnostic tests for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) can only confirm CWD’s advance after an infected animal is dead. The tools available for these types are limited. Not all states, hunters, processing companies, or butchers have access for testing. Even if they do, it can take weeks to get results. It is unknown how long it will take or exactly how much it might cost to develop these tests and make them more accessible.