Tax season is officially underway, and people across the country are scrambling to file their returns, with their fingers crossed for a big refund.
No matter what outcome your get from this year’s tax returns, it’s safe to say your refund won’t measure up to Ramon Christopher Blanchett’s.
The 29-year-old from Tampa, Florida is a self-described freelancer who filed his own 2016 tax return, and was paid back $980,000 based on his filing.
Blanchett’s returns lists his total earnings for that year as $18,497, while he supposedly withheld $1 million in income taxes.
A forfeiture complaint by the U.S. Attorney’s Office says Blanchett actually earned a combined $3,497 from two employers, and withheld no federal income tax.
Despite the huge difference, the IRS actually sent out Blanchett’s refund for close to $1 million before the agency caught their mistake. He was even able to cash the check, but his funds were later refunded by the bank after they suspected fraud.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says Blanchett stashed the money in a credit union instead, and withdrew just under $50,000 to buy a 2016 Lexus RC350.
Already, more than $919,000 in assets from Blanchett’s bank accounts and the Lexus under his name have been seized. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is even trying to claw back the $809 Blanchett was paid back for cancelling the insurance of his car.
While Blanchett’s case may be extreme, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In 2018, the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit identified $9.69 billion in alleged tax fraud, and launched more than 1,700 investigations.
Before you try to get tricky with your own tax returns, know that businesses send the tax agency records of their payments to employees.
While Blanchett has not been charged with a federal crime so far, other alleged fraudsters are not so lucky.
As you ready your tax return this year, you probably won’t need to be concerned about a $1 million tax return one way or the other.
The average refund for the 2018 tax season is down 9% from the last season, based on data released by the IRS. The average refund through February 8 was $1,949, compared to a $2,135 average refund for the same period last year.
A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Treasury says most Americans see small tax cuts in their paychecks to make up for the smaller annual refunds. But if the tax withholdings on your paychecks were not adjusted, you could feel the pinch and even end up with no refund this year.