WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service is taking several steps to crack down on fraudulent electronic filings of tax returns.

Tax preparers who file electronic returns will have to notify the IRS if a client is seeking a refund-anticipation loan. Some banks have lost money by making loans secured by fraudulent refund claims.

The IRS also is cracking down on people who have outstanding debts to the government. The agency will notify electronic tax preparers if a client owes a federal debt. In the past, the IRS only barred government debtors' refunds from being directly deposited in a bank account.

Among other moves taking effect next year, the IRS said it will require first-time filers to get refunds by check rather than direct deposit. The agency also plans to increase the scrutiny of preparers and transmitters allowed to participate in electronic filing.

The IRS said that of 110 million federal income tax filings so far this year, 13 million were electronic returns.

Of the latter, less than 0.1% were identified as fraudulent.

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