5 On Your Side investigation reveals fraudulent tax preparers; taxpayers cheated on refunds

Justice Department shuts down scores of offices

CLEVELAND - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation reveals scores of fraudulent tax preparers have been shut down on charges they cheated taxpayers by charging excessive fees and filing returns without permission.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been cracking down on "unscrupulous" tax return preparers and tax fraud promoters for the past six months, relying on civil injunctions against both large scale chains and smaller, independent offices across the country.

According to the complaints, fraudulent tax preparers commonly falsify information to take advantage of refunds due to low income taxpayers.

Among the fraudulent schemes:

* Filing tax returns without customer consent or authorization
* Preparing bogus W-2 forms, based on employee pay stubs
* Offering deceptive and misleading "Holiday Loans"
* Charging exorbitant and bogus fees

Ohio is among eight states where federal prosecutors have filed civil lawsuits in recent months.

Tonight on NewsChannel5 at 11, our exclusive investigation uncovers Cleveland-area taxpayers who have been ripped off, details complaints against one Ohio tax preparer and provides important tips to protect taxpayers from having refunds eaten away by excessive fees.

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