Brooke Thomas:  Hi, I’m Brooke Thomas, an attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly law firm. I’m here today to talk to you about filing taxes and specifically about filing fraudulent taxes and how that can hurt you in your social security disability claim.

Brooke Thomas: Now, I think everyone knows that when you work and you earn money, whether that’s self-employment, or on a 1099 as a contractor, or on a W2, you have to file your taxes and you have to report that to the IRS. That’s a must. Reporting income is very important. Reporting income and paying taxes is how folks get qualified to draw benefits under the social security program, that’s retirement benefits, social security disability benefits, and to earn entitlement to Medicare. It’s very important that you file those taxes, you pay your taxes and you get qualified.

Brooke Thomas: But what we see time and again is that folks will come in and we’ll get a copy of their earnings record from the Social Security Administration, because when you file a claim for disability benefits, even if it’s you get a hearing schedule, the Social Security Administration pulls those records from the IRS to see if you’ve been working. One of the basic tenants of social security disability is that you’re telling them that you’re not able to do substantial gainful employment. You’re not able to work full-time. So they look at the IRS records to see if you have been, and what’ll come up time and again is we’ll see these reports to the IRS that folks are saying they’ve done self-employment. And what happens is that you may go and talk to a tax preparer and they’ll say, “Oh, you did some self-employment. I can file those taxes for you. We can get you the maximum refund.”

Brooke Thomas: A lot of times that’s very attractive, especially for folks who have children, or who have not been able to work and they need that money to live, to buy food to support themselves. But that’s a huge red flag. If you talk to a tax preparer and they suggest to you what you should file your self-employment taxes as, and you know in your mind, “Hey, I didn’t really work and make that much money that year.” Or if they say, “Oh, hey, I can follow these taxes for you. You’re going to get a big refund. I’ll keep half, you keep half.” Huge red flag and that is tax fraud.

Brooke Thomas:  It also becomes a huge problem when you’re filing for disability. And so there you are, you’ve waited a year or longer to go in front of an administrative law judge, to explain to them why you can’t work and all of a sudden you have this huge issue because you’ve told the IRS that you made $14,000 last year. Well, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have worked and made $14,000, but also tell the judge that you can’t work. And so we see it with our claimants. One, it’s tax fraud. Please don’t commit tax fraud. And two, it really, really can just kill any chance you have of getting approved for your social security disability benefits.

Brooke Thomas: Now, we’re not tax attorneys. If you have questions about taxes or you’re not sure about what you should file, I always suggest you should talk to a certified tax prepare or some type of certified tax specialist, who can give you the answers for exactly what you should file. The final takeaway on this is that you should always be truthful in all of your filings, especially with your tax filings, year to year. If your doctor clears you, we don’t discourage folks from trying to work. There are programs where you can try to work and that doesn’t hurt you. And if you wanted to do that, you can that, but again, back to number one, be truthful about what you try to do and about how much money you earned while you were trying to do it.

Brooke Thomas: Lastly, be prepared. If you did do some work or if you have these tax returns that are showing self-employment income, you are going to have to explain what that work was, when you did it, how you got paid. So keep meticulous details because you’re going to have to explain, both to your attorney and to the judge, where that money came from an how you earned it.

Brooke Thomas:  We’re always here and happy to talk to anyone with any questions about social security disability, about what type of work that you can do while your claim is pending, and we’d be happy to talk to you about that. You can reach us, toll-free at 1 800-332-1529. You can reach us locally in Mobile at 251 343-1111, or we’re always available online at GardbergLaw.com. Thanks for tuning in today. Please contact us if you have any questions.