Tax Tips to Help and Tax Scams to Avoid

Vancouver, BC – Tax season is here and BBB offers plenty of tips to help you find a trust tax preparer and to potentially avoid a couple of scams making the rounds in Canada.

“The CRA tax scam was still on our National Top 10 Scams list this year,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “The upside is we did see a drop in that scam, however it came back when the scammers contacted their victims offering to return their money for a fee.”

The CRA scam involved threatening phone calls at all hours demanding a tax repayment or you would be arrested or deported.

“The other good thing, is that according to BBB’s new Risk Index, fewer people are actually falling for tax scams this year even if they are approached,” adds Kelly. “Other scams we have seen are fake emails that look like they come from the CRA or other online tax return applications that actually redirect any government payments or steal information. These we need to be aware of.”

BBB offers these tip to find a trusted tax professional and to avoid getting scammed:

* Check on qualifications. Ask about their training, experience and knowledge of current tax law, and whether they are members of a professional organization with continuing education requirements and a code of ethics.

* Learn about their service terms in advance. Find out whether they guarantee the accuracy of their work and amend the return if there’s a mistake. And find out if they can be reached year round if there is a mistake or are required to undergo an audit, you want to make sure you can reach them after the tax season is complete.

* Ask for references. Get referrals from satisfied clients.

* Check with BBB. Visit www.bbb.org/mbc/ to determine if the tax preparer has a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.

* Request a quote. Ask for an estimate of the preparation fee before authorizing the work.

* Signature. Make certain the preparer has signed it and get a copy and payment receipt for your records. Also review the return before signing it and ask for clarification of any entries you don’t understand.

Each year new scams surface online, promising tax refunds and other incentives to get you to part with your personal information.

Be on the watch for the following tax scams:

* Phishing Scams. Never open or download attachments included with messages claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. Typically, these messages advise the recipient that they have qualified for a tax refund and need to click on a link to enter their information. The link takes the person to a bogus website and requires the visitor to enter personal identification. CRA will not contact you via email. Sometimes this is used to re-direct a direct deposit return.

* Identity Theft. If you’re doing your taxes on your own online, don’t use a public wireless connection. Even using the latest wireless security encryption standards such as WPA2 can be risky, so use a wired connection when dealing with sensitive financial and personal information.

* Malware. Refrain from opening any unsolicited tax-related email message, as some messages can exploit weaknesses in your browser and initiate a drive-by download of spyware or malware without your knowledge.

* The Canada Revenue Agency DOES NOT solicit personal information online or over the phone.

Labour Day Travel Tips for the Road

Vancouver, BC – The last long weekend before students head back to school is almost here! Labour Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for British Columbia highways. Sadly, an average of 4 people are killed this weekend every year on our roads, and several hundred people injured. ICBC says they typically see two thousand car crashes on Labour Day weekends. Your BBB has plenty of safety tips to keep in mind if you’re heading out for one final summer getaway.

“We at BBB do our best all year to protect the wallets of British Columbians and promote trust in the marketplace,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “We also like to do our part when it comes to keeping them safe on the road too!”

The BBB provides the following safety tips for traveling:

• Create a car safety kit. Basics for the kit include: a blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, radio, first aid kit, jumper cables, non-perishable foods like granola bars and nuts, bottled water, family medicine and emergency telephone numbers.
• Take the car in for a checkup. If your car is due for a checkup, take it in before making that long haul. At the very least, check the car’s fluid levels, wipers and tire pressure and tread.
• Know the weather. Check local websites for traveling information for states you may be traveling through to allow extra time for bad weather.
• Check your gadgets. Charge your cell phone and make sure your GPS is running properly.
• Get some rest. Tired drivers are a hazard to themselves, those in their vehicle and often fatal or devastating mistakes can be made to other drivers on the road.

On The Road:

• Buckle up. Make sure everyone is properly buckled up and that young children are in age appropriate safety seats, and are properly secured.
• Remember the rules of the road. Don’t tailgate and remember the three-second rule when following vehicles. Don’t rely just on mirrors when changing lanes; turn around to check your blind spot. Obey all traffic signals.
• Watch your speed. Law enforcement will be out to ensure everyone is obeying all speed limits and laws.
• Don’t drink and drive.
• Don’t text and drive. When behind the wheel, pull over if you have to do anything that would take your full concentration off of driving.

Get The Most From Your Gas:

• Monitor your speed. Stay within posted speed limits – gas mileage decreases at speeds above 100 kms per hour.
• Don’t frequently start and stop. Improve your mileage up to 5% by avoiding quick starts and stops.
• Avoid unnecessary idling. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait.
• Make the most of highway time. Use overdrive gears or cruise control when appropriate to improve highway fuel economy.
• Don’t carry extra weight. Remove items from your trunk; an extra 100 pounds can reduce fuel economy by up to 2%. Remove items on top of your car; wind resistance reduces fuel economy by 5%.