How to Spot Employee Retention Tax Credit Scams and Schemes
Common ERTC Scams to Watch Out For
Fake Consultants and Service Providers
One of the most common ERTC scams involves fake consultants or tax preparers contacting businesses and claiming they can help maximize ERTC refunds, often in exchange for a fee or percentage of the refund. Some red flags of a scam include:
- Unsolicited calls, emails, or letters promising guaranteed refunds or eligibility
- Requests for sensitive information like Social Security numbers upfront
- Claims they can obtain refunds outside of filing a tax return
- Requests for upfront fees before services are rendered
Legitimate tax professionals will clearly explain their credentials, provide references, outline their services and fees in writing, and never promise a refund before reviewing your eligibility.
Phishing and Impersonation Scams
Some scammers attempt to impersonate the IRS and send phishing emails or make phone calls pretending to be from the IRS. They may claim there is an issue with your ERTC claim or request personal information to re-issue a refund.
Remember – the IRS does not initiate contact by phone, email, text or social media. Any communication claiming to be from the IRS should be verified through official IRS channels.
There are also scams that involve fraudulent ERTC claims being filed on behalf of ineligible businesses. This is known as stolen identity refund fraud. Businesses should be on the lookout for any suspicious IRS notices regarding rejected ERTC claims that were not filed by the business.
8 Ways Businesses Can Avoid ERTC Scams
While ERTC scams are on the rise, businesses can take proactive steps to avoid becoming victims:
- Verify the source – Only use official IRS resources for ERTC information. Be wary of unsolicited calls, emails, etc.
- Research tax preparers – Check credentials and reviews before hiring someone to assist with ERTC claims.
- Don’t pay upfront fees – Avoid any tax preparer asking for upfront or contingency fees.
- Guard personal information – Never provide sensitive data like SSNs unless using official IRS online portals.
- Confirm eligibility – Review IRS eligibility criteria carefully before pursuing a claim.
- File amended returns – The IRS requires ERTC claims be filed on amended returns, not through third parties.
- Look for IRS warnings – Heed any public guidance the IRS provides on new scams.
- Consult a trusted CPA – Discuss any suspicious ERTC offers with a reputable tax professional.
Recognizing ERTC Scam Warning Signs
Here are some key red flags that an ERTC offer or communication may be a scam attempt:
- Claims they can obtain your refund with little effort or information from you
- Vague about credentials, experience, or how they will obtain your refund
- Pressures you to act fast or won’t provide information in writing
- Requests sensitive data like SSNs early in process
- Promises a specific refund amount before reviewing eligibility
- Requires upfront payment or charges very high fees
- Says they can get your refund without filing amended returns
- Communication contains spelling/grammar errors or comes from a suspicious email
Any ERTC communication that exhibits one or more of these warning signs should be approached with extreme caution. When in doubt, reach out to a trusted CPA or tax attorney for guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are ERTC scams illegal?
Yes, participating knowingly in fraudulent ERTC schemes or providing false information on tax returns is illegal and can lead to civil or criminal penalties.
Can I get scammed using a legitimate tax preparer?
Unfortunately yes – some scammers pose as legitimate tax prep professionals. That’s why it’s critical to do your research before sharing any personal information or paying fees.
What government agency oversees ERTC fraud?
The IRS is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of ERTC fraud and improper claims. They take ERTC scams very seriously.
What are the penalties for ERTC fraud?
Penalties can range from failure to disclose fines, accuracy penalties, or even criminal prosecution for willful tax fraud. Interest will accrue on any unpaid taxes.
Can I report an ERTC scam anonymously?
Yes, you can report suspected tax fraud to the IRS anonymously by submitting Form 3949-A. Your identity will be protected.