As the federal income tax season gets into full swing, the IRS warns taxpayers to beware of falling victim to paid income tax preparers who file fraudulent tax returns on behalf of their customers.

Return Preparer Fraud generally involves the preparation and filing of false income tax returns by preparers who claim inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits or excessive exemptions on returns prepared for their clients.

Preparers may also manipulate income figures to obtain fraudulent tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

In some situations, the client (taxpayer) may not have knowledge of the false expenses, deductions, exemptions and/or credits shown on their tax returns. However, when the IRS detects the false return, the taxpayer must pay the additional taxes and interest and may be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution.

The IRS Return Preparer Program focuses on enhancing compliance in the return-preparer community by investigating and referring criminal activity by return preparers to the Department of Justice for prosecution and/or asserting appropriate civil penalties against unscrupulous return preparers.

While most preparers provide excellent service to their clients, the IRS urges taxpayers to be very careful when choosing a tax preparer. You should be as careful as you would in choosing a doctor or a lawyer. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares your return, you are ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.