The Internal Revenue Service offers the following seven tips to help taxpayers avoid an emerging scheme tempting senior citizens and other taxpayers to file tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds.

These schemes promise refunds to people who have little or no income and normally don't have a tax filing requirement.

Promoters claim they can obtain for their victims, often senior citizens, a tax refund or nonexistent stimulus payment based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, even if the victim was not enrolled in or paying for college.

Con artists falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim went to school decades ago. In many cases, scammers are targeting seniors, people with very low incomes and members of church congregations with bogus promises of free money.

A variation of this scheme also falsely claims the college credit is available to compensate people for paying taxes on groceries.

These schemes can be quite costly for victims. Promoters may charge exorbitant upfront fees to file these claims and are often long gone when victims discover they've been scammed.

Taxpayers should be careful of these scams because, regardless of who prepared their tax return, the taxpayer is legally responsible for the accuracy of their tax return and must repay any refunds received in error, plus any penalties and interest. They may even face criminal prosecution.

To avoid becoming ensnared in these schemes, the IRS says taxpayers should beware of any of the following:

  • Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.
  • Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to the membership of local churches.
  • Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit social security numbers.
  • Homemade flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.
  • Offers of free money with no documentation required.
  • Promises of refunds for "Low Income – No Documents Tax Returns."
  • Claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.
  • Unsolicited offers to prepare a return and split the refund.
  • Unfamiliar return preparation firms soliciting business from cities outside of the normal business or commuting area.

In recent weeks, the IRS has identified and stopped an upsurge of these bogus refund claims coming in from across the United States. The IRS is actively investigating the sources of this scheme, and its promoters can be subject to criminal prosecution.

To get the facts on tax benefits related to education, go the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center on this website.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

June 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during May, report them to your employer - Details

June 10 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of May.

June 14 — Regular method taxes

Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of May.

June 15 — Individuals
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien living and working (or on military duty) outside the United States and Puerto Rico, file Form 1040 and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. If you want additional time to file your return, file Form 4868 to obtain 4 additional months to file - Details

June 15 — Individuals
Make a payment of your 2016 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the second installment - Details

June 15 — Corporations
Deposit the second installment of estimated income tax for 2016 - Details

June 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in May.

June 15 — Nonpayroll withholding

If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in May.

June 27 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 16 days of May.

June 29 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of June.

June 30 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during May.

June 30 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in May.

June 30 — Floor stocks tax for ozone depleting chemicals
(IRS No. 20). Deposit the tax for January 1, 2016.

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