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Tax season may not be done for all St. Louis residents

Tax season has come and gone for most St. Louis residents, with many filing their returns by the recent deadline. While these individuals may believe they are now finished dealing with their taxes for another year, this may not be the case based on recent activity.

The Missouri Attorney General's office is currently investing several complaints of tax fraud. The number of these complaints has almost doubled since this time last year, with 388 complaints being received as of last count.

The scams involve cases of stolen identity, where a person who goes to file his or her tax return learns that someone else has already done so under their name, and received the refund that person was due. The fraud typically occurs when a person's Social Security number is used by another person in order to file the forged return. The wages or other income listed on the return are often fake, but the return allows the person to collect the refund before the individual realizes it.

While scams like the above can be bothersome for those whose identity is stolen, they can also be very troublesome for those facing criminal charges in the tax fraud scheme. Tax fraud carries serious penalties if a person is convicted on the charges, and therefore the matter should be taken very seriously.

For instance, in addition to whatever prison sentence might be at stake, individuals might also be subject to restitution if convicted. This means the person would be ordered to make payment, in a potentially very large sum, to victims of the offense. Accordingly, not only is a loss of liberty on the line with a prison sentence, but severe financial consequences could also follow from a conviction. Therefore, individuals should vigorously defend themselves when charged with tax fraud or other related allegations.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Tax scams on the rise in St. Louis area, police say," Leah Thorsen, April 4, 2015

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