(PROVIDENCE, RI) A spike in fraudulent income tax returns has prompted the suspension of a free state tax preparation service.
For at least 30 years, the Rhode Island Division of Taxation has prepared tax returns free of charge for walk ins. Not this year. The two people assigned to the service are being reassigned to the fraud unit, to combat what Chief Revenue Agent Neil Downing calls an uptick in the number of the number of fraudulent claims for refunds.
"Increased use of technology makes fraud easier to do. And secondly I think it’s the economy. Over the past five years or so fraudulent refund claims have increased dramatically at the federal level. The IRS has seen skyrocketing numbers. We have also seen increases as have other states. ... Often it’s simply a matter of identity theft or taking the social security numbers of people who have died and using a name but changing the address and trying to get a refund that way."
Downing says the 3,000 people served by the free tax preparation service last year have been notified of its termination and referred to other free accounting services.
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