In an enlightening new study performed by YouGov and ACI Worldwide, an e-payment and banking technology provider, over 1,270 adults were surveyed to find that a frighteningly high percentage are at high risk of getting scammed by the very person they trust with their taxes the most: their preparer.
But perhaps it’s that very trust that’s the root issue, because out of the wide range of ages represented – from Millennials, to Generation X, to Baby Boomers – while 54% ensure that their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is on the form, just under half, 46%, don’t check that their accountant has entered their PTIN before signing; all but inviting misuse of their taxpayer information.
All things considered, 38% of Americans have reported being victim to a tax scam in the past, with 27% of those scams taking place over the phone, and another 17% performed via email. But, sadly, naïveté seems to be growing with the generation – 56% of Millennials failing to vet their preparer or their information, compared to Generation X’s 48% and Baby Boomers’ 32%.
But preparer tax fraud isn’t the only thing taxpayers have to worry about when it comes to their returns. Turns out, how you choose to pay or receive your tax return can put you at higher fraud risk too.
For context, 29% of Americans still pay their taxes by mailing a check to the government compared to the 23% who opt for electronic withdrawals – 43% of those writing a check Baby Boomers, 28% Generation X, and 12% Millennials.
When it comes to receiving tax refunds, thankfully a large 71% of taxpayers said that they’d prefer to receive the money through direct deposit… But that still leaves the 19% who prefer a mailed Treasury check. Out of that 19%, a majority were Millennials – 22% picking this option – versus Generation X’s 20% and the 17% of Baby Boomers.
So, what’s the issue with paying or receiving tax money through paper checks?
“Despite the continued evolution of payment technology, nearly a third of Americans opted to write out a check and physically mail it, which takes more effort than an electronic funds withdrawal, debit or credit card payments,” Andrew Sajeski, ACI Worldwide’s biller solutions chief explains.
“Paying by cash or check tends to take longer, and leaves the taxpayer at risk of being late, leading to additional interest and penalty charges. Moreover, if the check gets lost in the mail or stolen, the consumer’s personal information can be violated. It’s much easier and safer to set up an electronic funds withdrawal.”
So, take it from the experts (and the stats!), and consider creating an account with the IRS’s many online payment options.