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IRS, area groups caution people on tax prep choices

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Fly-by-night tax prep agencies are popping up all across Michiana, despite recent attempts from the IRS to ban such places. Each year, thousands are duped. W

e talked with several area groups sharing tips, so you don't get taken on your returns.

It's tax season. That means busy days are ahead for folks like Karen Sommers.

"We know people are in great need," Sommers, with the United Way of St. Joseph County, said. "We want that money in their pockets, for them to purchase services."

The United Way of St. Joseph County is helping financially troubled people to get free tax prep assistance, so they don't get taken advantage of.

"Certain tax benefits have increased so much over the years, that it's very tempting for people to either try and get things they don't qualify for, or for some disreputable preparer to encourage people to file a fraudulent return."

Linda Troyer has been filing returns for over 30 years, and has seen her fair share of shady tax preps.

Often, people come to her after it's too late, with an IRS letter already in hand.

"As a taxpayer, when you sign the tax return, you're saying that you have looked it over, and to the best of your knowledge, it is correct," Troyer said. "So if there is an error on the return, it is your responsibility."

This year -- she and others are offering advice on what to look for from a tax agency.

"They should always guarantee that they'll give you the biggest (return) one that you qualify to receive, but not that they'll get you more money than some other tax company might get you," Troyer said.

"I would suggest they call 2-1-1 and find out which programs are tried, true and free," Sommers said.

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