Saturday, March 5, 2011

Common Sense Tax Refund Shopping Season Personal Protection Tips

The official deadline for submitting tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this year is April 18th, however the 2011 Tax Refund Shopping Season is currently underway in earnest. With the advent of electronic filing and "rapid refund anticipation loan" programs available from tax preparation services, it is possible for folks to gain access to their refund checks in mere days after their W-2s are received from their employers.

A recent CNNMoney report states that the average refund to be paid back to tax filers will average about $3,000. Accordingly, it should be no surprise that the criminal element (i.e. robbers) of our society is looking for an opportunity to relieve folks of their tax refund windfalls. This report will suggest a few common sense strategies for filers to decrease their odds of being victimized.

Tip 1: Choose Your Tax Preparation Professional Carefully

For those tax filers who opt to use the services of a tax return preparer, a judicious amount of caution should be exercised when selecting the entity. As a small business professional, I am sensitive to the suggestion that only large well-known firms should be used. However, should a tax filer desire to use a less renowned service, he should be sure that there are no apparent safety concerns.

In 2007, a 24 year-old U.S. Navy veteran - Terron Bush - who served in the Iraq War was shot and killed by a 15 year-old assailant after being robbed of his tax refund of $5,800 in cash. His alleged assailant, Steven Johnson, followed and murdered Bush after Johnson's mother had prepared Bush's tax return in her home on the east-side of Detroit.

Tip 2: Use Direct Deposit To Receive Your Tax Refund

During these perilous times, especially in large urban cities like Detroit, it is not a safe proposition to cash a tax refund check via any establishment other than a bank. An electronic distribution of a tax refund is received faster than a manually submitted return and can be safely and automatically deposited into a bank checking account.

From there, the funds can be accessed by the filer via a bank issued debit card. This suggestion, if exercised, will eliminate the possibility of being targeted for a robbery while possessing either the check or the actual money from the cashed check. Furthermore, there will not be any check cashing fees that are typically charged by non-bank check cashing entities.

Tip 3: Avoid drawing Attention To Yourself

Some people seem only too eager - whether explicitly or implicitly - to flaunt their anticipated or received tax refund checks. If you are expecting a sizable refund, no one else needs to know, especially how much it is and when you expect to receive it. You never know who is listening to you and may be planning to victimize you. For example, you should not broadcast your shopping spree plans throughout your Facebook network.

Moreover, your conduct when spending your tax refund money should not be patently obvious. For example, being the "big spender" at a public venue while flashing lots of cash can draw attention from people with bad intentions. Also, when otherwise buying goods and services on a less conspicuous basis, continue to follow common sense protocols: don't over-burden yourself with bags and packages, maintain your situational awareness, park in well-lit areas, don't carry large amounts of cash, and try not to shop alone.

The 2011 Tax Refund Shopping Season is in full swing and will reach its apex soon. Tax filers who are anticipating sizable tax refunds should exercise due caution to lessen the chances that they will fall prey to a predator. Safety tactics include closely scrutinizing the risks of using a certain preparer, having anticipated tax refunds direct deposited to a bank account, and maintaining a low-key profile.

Be safe!

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