Following up on threats concerning possible tax-preparer fraud and blatant abuse of the phone tax refund, the Internal Revenue Service announced it is taking additional steps to ensure preparers and taxpayers are making accurate requests for the one-time refund.

IRS Criminal Investigation special agents and revenue agents are conducting site visits with tax preparers across the country in order to prevent inflated requests of the tax refunds. Visits began this week to 22 different tax preparers who have handled more than 1,500 tax returns.

“We are taking this unusual step to confront blatant abuse of this important refund program,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, in a statement.

The IRS has monitored telephone excise tax refund requests for potential problems since the tax-filing season opened in early January, witnessing a variety of problems that it believes may indicate criminal intent.

Separately, the Treasury Department and the agency announced the selection of 33 new members to serve on the nationwide Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, an dvisory committee charged with providing direct taxpayer input to the IRS.

The new panel members will join 64 returning members to round out the panel of 97 volunteers for 2007. The new members were selected from over 700 interested individuals from all over the country, who applied through an open recruitment period last spring.

TAP members volunteer to serve a three-year appointment and are expected to devote 300 to 500 hours per year to panel activities. The next recruiting period opens on March 19. Details on applying, and the full member list, will soon be available at www.improveirs.org.

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