Tax dollars going to people not legally entitled to it, a local lawyer says it happens every day. An attorney says the government is not the only victim.
In some immigration cases, fraud is discovered in an applicant's tax returns. A local lawyer says the problem starts with people misrepresenting themselves as tax preparers.
Immigration Lawyer, Judith Seeds Miller, said she sees cases every day of illegal immigrants having trouble getting citizenship because they have claimed dependents on their taxes who don't qualify. "A lot of the petition preparers put down relatives, put down cousins, put down neighbors that you're not authorized to do. That's going to increase your refund and so that is a fraud, that's tax fraud," said Seeds Miller.
She said often, people think they're benefiting from the bigger refund -- but it will come around to bite them in the end. Seeds Miller said, "If the additional amounts that you receive, that you weren't entitled to, equal $10,000 then that qualifies as what we call an aggravated felony and you will basically not be eligible for almost any type of immigration relief and you'll probably lose your residency."
Offenders aren't the only ones missing out because of the fraud. She said, "it impacts everybody in the United States because that's money that's supposed to be used for governmental purposes, things that we all benefit from, governmental programs, the military, everything. So, they're stealing from the government."
Seeds Miller said generally, the tax preparer recommends the additional dependents, but it's on the taxpayer to know what's right. "You're the one who signed it, it's got your name on it, the buck stops here," she said.
Individuals who prepare tax returns must comply with certain laws, complete the required education, maintain a $5,000 bond and register with the California Tax Education Council.
There are ways to ensure a tax preparer is licensed. You can verify a tax preparer is legitimate by going to a state website.