12 Ways to Avoid a Fraudulent Tax Preparer

 

As a taxpayer, you are legally responsible for what appears on your tax return —  even if someone else prepares it. This is why it is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare a tax return.

To help protect well-intentioned taxpayers from being misguided by preparers who don’t understand taxes or scam artists who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to claim, Victory State Bank is sharing these tips from the Internal Revenue Service:

  • Avoid fly-by-night preparers. Make sure the preparer will be available if needed, even after the return is filed. In the event questions come up about a tax return, taxpayers may need to contact the preparer.
  • Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on tax returns.
  • Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. Tax law can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. The IRS website has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.
  • Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help locate a tax return preparer with the preferred qualifications. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of tax preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of Attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents, enrolled actuaries and Annual Filing Season Program participants.
  • Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory
  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or boast bigger refunds than their competition. Don’t give tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information to a preparer when only inquiring about their services and fees. Unfortunately, some preparers have improperly filed returns without the taxpayer’s permission once the records were obtained.
  • Make sure the preparer offers IRS e-file and ask to e-file the tax return. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.
  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see tax records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine the client’s total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file a return using a pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • Understand representation rules. Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent taxpayers in limited situations if they prepared and signed the return. However, non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before Dec. 31, 2015.
  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks clients to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.
  • Review the tax return before signing. Before a taxpayer signs a return, they should review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should ensure they are comfortable with the accuracy of the return and that the refund goes directly to them – not into the preparer’s bank account. Reviewing the routing and bank account number on the completed return is always a good idea.
  • Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Taxpayers can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a return preparer is suspected of filing or changing the return without the client’s consent, also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Forms are available on IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, understanding the differences in credentials and qualifications, researching the IRS preparer directory and learning how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

 

 

ABOUT VICTORY STATE BANK

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island, including the main office in the community of Great Kills and branches in West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.

A planned sixth branch, to be situated in Meiers Corners, has received both regulatory and building department approvals.

For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100, or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

Media Contact: 

Relevant Public Relations, LLC

Headquarters: 718‑682‑1509

Mobile: 917‑715‑8761

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

Know Your Rights When Recovering from ID Theft

 

Identity theft can cause financial upheaval in a person’s life, so it’s important to take immediate steps to reverse whatever damage has been done.

Victory State Bank advises you to know your rights during the recovery process following identity theft.

If someone is using your information to open new accounts or make purchases, Staten Island’s only community-based commercial bank recommends contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which provides an online means to report it and get help.

To assist you on the road to recovery after someone steals your identity, Victory State Bank is sharing information from the FTC; in the aftermath of ID theft,

you have the right to:

  • Create an FTC Identity Theft Report
  • Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report
  • Place a seven-year extended fraud alert on your credit report
  • Get free copies of your credit report
  • Get fraudulent information removed (or "blocked") from your credit report
  • Dispute fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit report
  • Stop creditors and debt collectors from reporting fraudulent accounts
  • Get copies of documents related to the identity theft
  • Stop a debt collector from contacting you

For additional rights associated with recovery from identity theft, visit www.identitytheft.gov/know-your-rights.

 

 

ABOUT VICTORY STATE BANK

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island, including the main office in the community of Great Kills and branches in West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.

A planned sixth branch, to be situated in Meiers Corners, has received both regulatory and building department approvals.

For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100, or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

Media Contact: 

Relevant Public Relations, LLC

Headquarters: 718‑682‑1509

Mobile: 917‑715‑8761

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

2 Methods for Signing Individual Income Tax Returns Electronically

 

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Do you know how to sign an electronic individual income tax return?

To provide taxpayers with an understanding of how this modern-age signature is applied, Victory State Bank, the only community-based business bank on Staten Island, is sharing the following information from the IRS:

As with an income tax return submitted to the IRS on paper, the taxpayer and paid preparer (if applicable) must sign an electronic income tax return.

Taxpayers must sign individual income tax returns electronically. There are currently two methods for signing individual income tax returns electronically: Self-Select PIN and Practitioner PIN. Each of these methods is described within this article.

Taxpayers must sign and date the Declaration of Taxpayer to authorize the origination of the electronic submission of the return to the IRS prior to the transmission of the return to IRS.

The Declaration of Taxpayer includes the taxpayers' declaration under penalties of perjury that the return is true, correct and complete, as well as the taxpayers' Consent to Disclosure.

The Consent to Disclosure authorizes the IRS to disclose information to the taxpayers' Providers.

Taxpayers authorize Intermediate Service Providers, Transmitters and Electronic Return Originators (EROs) to receive from the IRS an acknowledgement of receipt or reason for rejection of the electronic return, the reason for any delay in processing the return or refund and the date of the refund.

An ERO is the Authorized IRS e-file Provider that originates the electronic submission of a return to the IRS. The ERO is usually the first point of contact for most taxpayers filing a return using IRS e-file.

Taxpayers must sign a new declaration if the electronic return data on individual income tax returns is changed after taxpayers signed the Declaration of Taxpayer and the amounts differ by more than either $50 to "Total income" or "AGI," or $14 to "Total tax," "Federal income tax withheld," "Refund" or "Amount you owe."

ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE METHODS

There are two methods of signing individual income tax returns with an electronic signature available for use by taxpayers. Both methods allow taxpayers to use a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to sign the return and the Declaration of Taxpayer.

Self-Select PIN is one of these methods. The Self-Select PIN method requires taxpayers to provide their prior year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount or prior year PIN for use by the IRS to authenticate the taxpayers. EROs should encourage taxpayers who do not have their original prior year AGI or PIN to seek that information from the preparer or software they used last year.  If they are unable to attain the AGI from those sources, the taxpayer should access Get Transcript on IRS.gov and order a transcript to obtain the AGI.

This method may be completely paperless if the taxpayers enter their own PINs directly into the electronic return record using key strokes after reviewing the completed return. Taxpayers may also authorize EROs to enter PINs on their behalf, in which case the taxpayers must review and sign a completed signature authorization form after reviewing the return. Also see IRS e-fileSignature Authorization below.

Practitioner PIN is the other method and it does not require the taxpayer to provide their prior year AGI amount or prior year PIN. When using this method, taxpayers must always appropriately sign a completed signature authorization form.

Taxpayers, who use the Practitioner PIN method and enter their own PINs in the electronic return record using key strokes after reviewing the completed return, must still appropriately sign the signature authorization form.

Regardless of the method of electronic signature used, taxpayers may enter their own PINs; EROs may select and enter the taxpayers’ PINs; or the software may generate the taxpayers’ PINs; in the electronic return. After reviewing the return, the taxpayers must agree by signing an IRS e-file signature authorization containing the PIN.

The following taxpayers are ineligible to sign individual income tax returns with an electronic signature using the Self-Select PIN:

  • Primary taxpayers under age sixteen who have never filed; and
  • Secondary taxpayers under age sixteen who did not file the prior tax year.

EROs should advise taxpayers to keep a copy of their completed tax return to assist with authentication in the subsequent year.

For more information about filing taxes, you may visit the IRS online.

 

 

ABOUT VICTORY STATE BANK

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island, including the main office in the community of Great Kills and branches in West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.

A planned sixth branch, to be situated in Meiers Corners, has received both regulatory and building department approvals.

For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100, or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

Media Contact: 

Relevant Public Relations, LLC

Headquarters: 718‑682‑1509

Mobile: 917‑715‑8761

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

How Your Credit Score is Impacted by Credit Inquiries

 

If you are about to finance a major purchase, you should first understand how credit inquires can affect your credit score, advises Victory State Bank, the only community-based commercial bank on Staten Island.

Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) store information about your credit history. As explained by U.S. General Services Administration’s “Consumer Action Handbook,” a credit report from a CRA contains past information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, liens, and whether you have filed for bankruptcy.

CRSs gather this information and sell it to creditors, employers, insurers, and others.

The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. There are three major credit bureaus:

 

§  Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com. To place a fraud alert on your credit report, call 1-888-766-0008.

 

§  Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com.

 

§  TransUnion: 1-800-888-4213 or www.transunion.com,  or 1-888-909-8872 to place a fraud alert.

 

 

CREDIT INQUIRIES

Soft and hard credit inquiries are two ways of pulling your credit report. Both give a company access to your credit history, but they are used for different reasons and have different impacts on your credit score.

SOFT INQUIRY

A soft inquiry occurs when a company pulls your credit report, without you initiating it.

Lenders and credit companies do a soft inquiry to decide whether or not to pre-approve you for credit.

Employers, current lenders, and landlords may also do a soft pull. Downloading your own credit report is another example of a soft inquiry. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score.

HARD INQUIRY

A hard inquiry occurs when a lender pulls your credit report to make a lending decision, after you apply for credit.

You have to authorize hard inquiries. Each hard inquiry can reduce your credit score.

If there are hard inquiries on your credit report, that you didn’t authorize, it could be fraud. Dispute hard inquiries you didn’t authorize with the creditor listed and the credit bureaus. If neither will help, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFP).

 

 

ABOUT VICTORY STATE BANK

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island, including the main office in the community of Great Kills and branches in West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.

A planned sixth branch, to be situated in Meiers Corners, has received both regulatory and building department approvals.

For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100, or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

Media Contact: 

Relevant Public Relations, LLC

Headquarters: 718‑682‑1509

Mobile: 917‑715‑8761

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

7 Wise Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

 

​ Have you thought about what you might do with your tax refund?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers received a tax refund averaging nearly $3,000 in 2017 and will get a similar amount this year.

As Americans receive their refunds along with additional benefits coming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December, Victory State Bank is suggesting tax-refund recipients consider these seven tips from the American Bankers Association to help them use the money wisely:

 

1)      SAVE FOR EMERGENCIES

More than 60 percent of Americans are not prepared for unexpected expenses. You can prepare by opening or adding to a savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about three-to-six months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships like losing your job or having to replace your car.

2)      PAY OFF DEBT

Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.

3)      SAVE FOR RETIREMENT, YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION

      OR FUTURE HEALTH EXPENSES

Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Your bank can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored. Look into opening a tax-advantaged 529 education savings plan to ensure school expenses will be covered when your child reaches college age. Or save for future health expenses with tax-free dollars by investing in a Health Savings Account.

4)      PAY DOWN YOUR MORTGAGE OR STUDENT LOANS

Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loans each year to save money on interest while reducing the term of your loans. Be sure to inform your lender that your extra payments should be applied to principal, not interest.

5)      INVEST SAFELY WITH U.S. SAVINGS BONDS

OR MUNICIPAL BONDS 

The U.S. Treasury allows for savings bond to be purchased using your tax refund for as little as $50. Savings bonds earn interest for a maximum of 30 years.

6)      INVEST IN YOUR CURRENT HOME

Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home.  This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term – and with tax credits (as long as Congress continues to renew the program). If you have more substantial renovations in mind, your bank can help with a home equity line of credit.

7)      DONATE TO CHARITY

The benefit is two-fold: Giving to charity will make a difference in your community, and you can also claim the tax deduction, if you itemize.

ABA also stressed the importance of lower-income workers filing a tax return—even if their income is too low to trigger any federal tax liability—in order to potentially claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  Depending on a recipient’s income, marital status and number of children, the EITC can result in a refund of up to $6,318 to help them ensure financial security. 

For more tips and resources on a variety of personal finance topics such as mortgages, credit cards, protecting your identity and saving for college, visit aba.com/Consumers.

 

 

ABOUT VICTORY STATE BANK

 

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island, including the main office in the community of Great Kills and branches in West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.

A planned sixth branch, to be situated in Meiers Corners, has received both regulatory and building department approvals.

For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100, or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

Media Contact: 

Relevant Public Relations, LLC

Headquarters: 718‑682‑1509

Mobile: 917‑715‑8761

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.