Stacie Kitts, CPA
I hate you is harsh, but warranted.
I have no reservation is saying ” I hate you if you are a tax scammer con artist.” You give the tax preparer profession a bad name and I hate you. You put taxpayers in a precarious position and I hate you. You make my job harder and I hate you. You are a disgusting low life taking advantage of low income and elderly taxpayers and I really hate you!!!!
The IRS announced a new series of scams involving tax credits. The scammers promise the taxpayer a large refund and charges a huge amount of money to prepare the return.
After the IRS rejects the taxpayers claim, the taxpayer realizes they are out the preparation fee with no recourse because the tax preparer has disappeared.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service encouraged taxpayers to guard against being misled by unscrupulous individuals trying to persuade them to file false claims for tax credits or rebates.
The IRS has noted an increase in tax-return-related scams, frequently involving unsuspecting taxpayers who normally do not have a filing requirement in the first place. These taxpayers are led to believe they should file a return with the IRS for tax credits, refunds or rebates for which they are not really entitled. Many of these recent scams have been targeted in the South and Midwest.
Most paid tax return preparers provide honest and professional service, but there are some who engage in fraud and other illegal activities. Unscrupulous promoters deceive people into paying for advice on how to file false claims. Some promoters may charge unreasonable amounts for preparing legitimate returns that could have been prepared for free by the IRS or IRS sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance partners. In other situations, identity theft is involved.
Taxpayers should be wary of any of the following:
- Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on excess or withheld Social Security benefits.
- Claims that Treasury Form 1080 can be used to transfer funds from the Social Security Administration to the IRS enabling a payout from the IRS.
- Unfamiliar for-profit tax services teaming up with local churches.
- Home-made flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.
- Offers of free money with no documentation required.
- Promises of refunds for “Low Income – No Documents Tax Returns.”
- Claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or Recovery Rebate Credit.
- Advice on claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit based on exaggerated reports of self-employment income.
In some cases non-existent Social Security refunds or rebates have been the bait used by the con artists. In other situations, taxpayers deserve the tax credits they are promised but the preparer uses fictitious or inflated information on the return which results in a fraudulent return.
Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file with little or no documentation, have been appearing in community churches around the country. Promoters are targeting church congregations, exploiting their good intentions and credibility. These schemes also often spread by word of mouth among unsuspecting and well-intentioned people telling their friends and relatives.
Promoters of these scams often prey upon low income individuals and the elderly.
They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, the victims discover their claims are rejected or the refund barely exceeds what they paid the promoter. Meanwhile, their money and the promoters are long gone.
Unsuspecting individuals are most likely to get caught up in scams and the IRS is warning all taxpayers, and those that help others prepare returns, to remain vigilant. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Anyone with questions about a tax credit or program should visit www.IRS.gov, call the IRS toll-free number at 800-829-1040 or visit a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
For questions about rebates, credit and benefits from other federal agencies contact the relevant agency directly for accurate information
Stacie says: “I don’t know about the suspsension period mentioned below. The IRS reports that attorney Michael McCall was suspended for 24 months from practice before the IRS for writing a bogus tax opinion. Frankly, if this guy wrote a bad opinion on purpose, I think it should be a permanent suspension. But that’s just me.”
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has accepted an offer of consent to suspension from bond attorney Michael W. McCall. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, McCall will be suspended from practice before the IRS for at least 24 months for writing a false tax opinion. Thereafter, he may petition for reinstatement.
“Practitioners have a duty to their clients, the system, and the municipal finance bond community to ensure that the tax advice they are giving their clients complies with the law and is complete and accurate,” IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Director Karen L. Hawkins said.
McCall was engaged by a state of Washington county municipal sewer district to act as co-bond counsel and special tax counsel to write an opinion as to the tax-exempt status of the district bonds issued in October 2000 and to perform due diligence with respect to certain transactional matters relating to the bond issuance. The district issued the bonds for its utility local improvement district for a proposed commercial development. The bonds were issued in violation of state law as the utility local improvement district was located outside of the sewer district boundaries. The bonds defaulted and have been determined to be invalid.
The OPR alleged that McCall’s opinion on the tax-exempt status of the district bonds was false under Circular 230, Section 10.51(j), and that McCall’s opinion on certain transactional matters was also false under Section 10.51(j). In addition, the OPR alleged that McCall failed to perform due diligence under Circular 230, section 10.22, with respect to transactional matters related to the bond issuance, including an undisclosed payment to him from bond proceeds received by the developer.
Following an OPR investigation, McCall admitted to violations of Circular 230 for giving false opinions, knowingly, recklessly, or through gross incompetence (Treasury Department Circular 230, Section 10.51(j) (2000)), and for failing to exercise due diligence (Treasury Department Circular 230, Section 10.22 (2000)).
The settlement agreement included a disclosure authorization that allowed the IRS to issue this release.
WASHINGTON — As the April 15 tax deadline approaches, the Internal Revenue Service today announced initial results from its stepped-up effort involving enforcement and education to combat unscrupulous tax return preparers and protect the nation’s taxpayers.
The IRS said it has conducted more than 5,000 field visits to tax return preparers this fiscal year. In addition, the IRS has worked with the Department of Justice to pursue questionable return preparers, an effort that has led to 56 indictments, 25 convictions and 21 civil injunctions since Jan. 1, 2010.
“We are working to help ensure taxpayers receive competent and ethical service from qualified tax professionals,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Our efforts this tax season are part of a longer-term effort to improve the oversight of this critical part of the tax system. The vast majority of tax return preparers provide solid service, but we need to do more to protect taxpayers.”
Shulman announced in January the results of a six-month study of the tax return preparer industry, which proposed new registration, testing and continuing education of tax return preparers. With more than 80 percent of American households using a tax preparer or tax software to help them prepare and file their taxes, higher standards for the tax return preparer community will significantly enhance protections and service for taxpayers, increase confidence in the tax system and result in greater compliance with tax laws over the long term. While this longer-term effort is underway, the IRS has taken several immediate steps this filing season to assist taxpayers.
The IRS has worked closely with the Justice Department this tax season to increase legal actions against unscrupulous tax return preparers, obtaining 21 civil injunctions, 56 indictments and 25 convictions of return preparers so far in 2010. More information is available at the IRS Civil and Criminal Actions page on irs.gov. and at the Department of Justice Tax Division page on DOJ.gov.
“The IRS appreciates the strong support of the Justice Department for its efforts to pursue and shut down bad actors in the tax return industry,” Shulman said. “This effort makes a real difference for the nation’s taxpayers and helps protect the many tax professionals who play by the rules.”
“While the majority of return preparers provide excellent service to their clients, a few unscrupulous tax preparers file false and fraudulent returns to defraud the government and the tax-paying public. Those actions are illegal, and can result in substantial civil penalties as well as criminal prosecution, for both the return preparers and their customers who knew or should have known better. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer,” said John A. DiCicco, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
Also during this filing season, the IRS used investigative tools on a broad basis, including agents posing as taxpayers, to seek out and stop unscrupulous preparers from filing inaccurate returns. To date, the IRS conducted 230 undercover visits to tax return preparers. In addition, dozens of search warrants have been completed.
The IRS will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice to pursue civil and criminal action as appropriate.
In January, the IRS sent more than 10,000 letters to tax return preparers. These letters reminded them of their obligation to prepare accurate returns for their clients, reviewed common errors, and outlined the consequences of filing incorrect returns. The letters went to preparers with large volumes of specific tax returns where the IRS typically sees frequent errors, although simply receiving a letter was not an indication the preparer had problems.
The IRS followed up with field visits to about 2,400 tax return preparers who received these letters to discuss many of the issues mentioned in the letter. Separately, the IRS conducted other compliance and educational visits with return preparers on a variety of other issues. All told, IRS representatives visited more than 5,000 paid preparers to encourage and help them avoid filing incorrect or fraudulent returns for their clients.
The IRS will be reviewing the results of these letters and visits to determine steps for future filing seasons.
The IRS has recently begun to implement a number of steps to increase oversight of federal tax return preparers. This includes proposed regulations that would require paid tax return preparers to obtain and use a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). Later this year, the IRS will propose additional regulations requiring competency tests and continuing professional education for paid tax return preparers who are not attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents.
Setting higher standards for the tax preparer community will significantly enhance protections and services for taxpayers, increase confidence in the tax system and result in greater compliance with tax laws over the long term. Other measures the IRS anticipates taking are highlighted in Publication 4832, Return Preparer Review, issued earlier this year.
Help for Taxpayers before April 15
As the tax deadline approaches, the IRS reminds taxpayers that most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. But a few simple steps can help people choose a good tax return preparer and avoid fraud:
- Be wary of tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than others.
- Avoid tax preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund.
- Use a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides a copy. Consider whether the individual or firm will be around months or years after the return has been filed to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return.
- Check the person’s credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
- Find out if the return preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and other resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
More information is available on IRS.gov, including IRS Fact Sheet 2010-03, How to Choose a Tax Preparer and Avoid Tax Fraud.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued its 2010 “dirty dozen” list of tax scams, including schemes involving return preparer fraud, hiding income offshore and phishing.
“Taxpayers should be wary of anyone peddling scams that seem too good to be true,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “The IRS fights fraud by pursuing taxpayers who hide income abroad and by ensuring taxpayers get competent, ethical service from qualified professionals at home in the U.S.”
Tax schemes are illegal and can lead to imprisonment and fines for both scam artists and taxpayers. Taxpayers pulled into these schemes must repay unpaid taxes plus interest and penalties. The IRS pursues and shuts down promoters of these and numerous other scams.
The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes:
Return Preparer Fraud
Dishonest return preparers can cause trouble for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds, charging inflated fees for return preparation services and attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. Federal courts have issued injunctions ordering hundreds of individuals to cease preparing returns and promoting fraud, and the Department of Justice has filed complaints against dozens of others, which are pending in court.
To increase confidence in the tax system and improve compliance with the tax law, the IRS is implementing a number of steps for future filing seasons. These include a requirement that all paid tax return preparers register with the IRS and obtain a preparer tax identification number (PTIN), as well as both competency tests and ongoing continuing professional education for all paid tax return preparers except attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents.
Setting higher standards for the tax preparer community will significantly enhance protections and services for taxpayers, increase confidence in the tax system and result in greater compliance with tax laws over the long term. Other measures the IRS anticipates taking are highlighted in the IRS Return Preparer Review issued in December 2009.
Hiding Income Offshore
The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers involved in abusive offshore transactions as well as the promoters, professionals and others who facilitate or enable these schemes. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through the use of nominee entities. Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans.
IRS agents continue to develop their investigations of these offshore tax avoidance transactions using information gained from over 14,700 voluntary disclosures received last year. While special civil-penalty provisions for those with undisclosed offshore accounts expired in 2009, the IRS continues to urge taxpayers with offshore accounts or entities to voluntarily come forward and resolve their tax matters. By making a voluntary disclosure, taxpayers may mitigate their risk of criminal prosecution.
Phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information online. IRS impersonation schemes flourish during the filing season and can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony Web sites. Scammers may also use phones and faxes to reach their victims.
Scam artists will try to mislead consumers by telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and that they must reveal personal information to claim it. Criminals use the information they get to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name.
Taxpayers who receive suspicious e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any of the links in the e-mail. Suspicious e-mails claiming to be from the IRS or Web addresses that do not begin with http://www.irs.gov should be forwarded to the IRS mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filing False or Misleading Forms
The IRS is seeing various instances where scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Under the scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund. Phony information returns, such as a Form 1099-Original Issue Discount (OID), claiming false withholding credits usually are used to legitimize erroneous refund claims. One version of the scheme is based on a false theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for its citizens, and that taxpayers can gain access to funds in those accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to their creditors, including the IRS.
Nontaxable Social Security Benefits with Exaggerated Withholding Credit
The IRS has identified returns where taxpayers report nontaxable Social Security Benefits with excessive withholding. This tactic results in no income reported to the IRS on the tax return. Often both the withholding amount and the reported income are incorrect. Taxpayers should avoid making these mistakes. Filings of this type of return may result in a $5,000 penalty.
Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions
The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Abuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets including situations where several organizations claim the full value for both the receipt and distribution of the same non-cash contribution. Often these donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can repurchase the items later at a price set by the donor. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and set new definitions of qualified appraisals and qualified appraisers for taxpayers claiming charitable contributions.
Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law or IRS guidance.
Abusive Retirement Plans
The IRS continues to find abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers use to avoid the limits on contributions to IRAs, as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions. Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets at less than fair market value into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs to circumvent annual contribution limits. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity that is considered prohibited.
Disguised Corporate Ownership
Corporations and other entities are formed and operated in certain states for the purpose of disguising the ownership of the business or financial activity by means such as improperly using a third party to request an employer identification number.
Such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes and even terrorist financing. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and to bring the owners of these entities into compliance with the law.
Filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS.
Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation. Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any of the variations of this scheme. Filings of this type of return may result in a $5,000 penalty.
Misuse of Trusts
For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and to hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.
The IRS has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering into a trust arrangement.
Fuel Tax Credit Scams
The IRS receives claims for the fuel tax credit that are excessive. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But other individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and potentially subjects those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.
How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity
Suspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral. The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. The mailing should include specific information about who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. The person filing the report is not required to self-identify, although it is helpful to do so. The identity of the person filing the report can be kept confidential.
Whistleblowers also may provide allegations of fraud to the IRS and may be eligible for a reward by filing Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information, and following the procedures outlined in Notice 2008-4, Claims Submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office under Section 7623.
Monica Lawver over at The Tax CPA has some great commentary regarding this IRS release. You should check it out. She provides some interesting insight on regulating the profession in her post The Three Rules.
WASHINGTON — A Certified Public Accountant has been suspended for twelve months from practice before the Internal Revenue Service by the Office of Professional Responsibility for providing false or misleading information in connection with the preparation of his clients’ tax returns.
“Practitioners have a duty both to their clients and to the system to insure taxpayers are complying with tax laws and filing complete and accurate tax returns,” Karen L. Hawkins, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility said.
Robert A. Loeser, a certified public accountant from Houston, Texas, assisted his clients to lower their tax bills by claiming false business expenses on tax returns he prepared.
For no legitimate business purpose, Loeser’s clients were advised to forward funds from their businesses to two corporations Loeser controlled. The corporations then rebated the funds to his clients. Loeser prepared the clients’ books and business tax returns expensing and deducting the entire amounts that were paid to the corporations.
The IRS alleged Loeser violated Circular 230 by giving false or misleading information to the Department of Treasury and the IRS.
The settlement agreement included a disclosure authorization that allowed the Office of Professional Responsibility to issue this release.
The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) establishes and enforces standards of competence, integrity and conduct for tax professionals — enrolled agents, attorneys, CPAs, and other individuals and groups covered by Treasury Circular 230.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service released the 2010 version of its discussion and rebuttal of many of the more common frivolous arguments made by individuals and groups that oppose compliance with federal tax laws.
Anyone who contemplates arguing on legal grounds against paying their fair share of taxes should first read the 80-page document, The Truth about Frivolous Tax Arguments.
The document explains many of the common frivolous arguments made in recent years and it describes the legal responses that refute these claims. It will help taxpayers avoid wasting their time and money with frivolous arguments and incurring penalties.
Congress in 2006 increased the amount of the penalty for frivolous tax returns from $500 to $5,000. The increased penalty amount applies when a person submits a tax return or other specified submission, and any portion of the submission is based on a position the IRS identifies as frivolous.
IRS highlighted in the document about 40 new cases adjudicated in 2009. Highlights include cases involving injunctions against preparers and promoters of Form 1099-Original Issue Discount schemes and injunctions against preparers and promoters of false fuel tax credit schemes.
From The Stupid Preparer Files – Woman Claims Connecticut Residents are Not Subject to Federal Income Tax – a Good Post From the Past
[I do love this story – another good post from the past]
By Stacie Clifford Kitts, CPA
I do enjoy reading about how stupid some tax preparers can be. It’s like a tax preparation train wreck. You know the kind you want to slow down to see. Moreover, the messier the scene, the harder it is to look away.
Nevertheless, regardless of how many stories I read, I am still amazed at tax preparers who are willing to go to jail over some income tax. Honestly, the blatant stupidity is genuinely mind numbing.
A favorite concerns a Connecticut woman, Sunita Buddhu who took over her father’s tax practice following his incarceration. Yes, I said it, his incarceration. Daddy went to jail for -get this – producing counterfeit checks from his place of business. The same business where he also prepared tax returns.
Now what do you suppose she told her father’s tax clients? Ummmm – I am sorry that my dad’s in jail – but no worries, I can still prepare your tax return, no need to worry about that fake check thingy.
Apparently, whatever she said worked because she continued preparing returns. But more baffling even than her clients who agreed to let her continue to work on their returns, is why she agreed to step in. Now let’s see, dad is in jail for fraud, ya think there might be a problem with his tax practice? Ya think- just maybe?
Well yes Sunita, there did appear to be a problem. Following her father’s incarceration, the IRS started a tax preparer investigation and proceeded to audit over 600 returns she and her father had prepared.
Oh, but now the story really gets good. As a result of the investigation, Ms. Buddhu decided it would be a good idea to file amended returns for her clients moving false and obviously disallowed Schedule C deductions to Schedule A. Huh, okay if the deductions are bogus, which apparently they were, hello – they are still bogus regardless of the schedule they’re on. Duh.
But wait, there’s more.
Undaunted, her behavior gets even more bizarre when she informs her clients that the IRS does not have the authority to conduct examinations of Connecticut resident’s tax returns. Okay, talk about frivolous arguments. What is so special about Connecticut?
But wait, there’s more.
She also told her clients that because they were residences living and working in the United States, they were only required to pay social security taxes, but were not subject to income tax. Yep that’s right, according to the Buddhu’s only non-resident aliens are subject to income tax.
But wait, there’s more. Oh, I do love this one.
She actually prepared letters that she mailed to the IRS stating her frivolous tax arguments 1) the IRS did not have jurisdiction over Connecticut residents and 2) U.S. residents living and working in the U.S. were not required to pay income tax.
Unfortunately, not only will this crazy out of control tax preparer suffer from this train wreck but so will her clients. They are now responsible for paying the additional taxes and associated penalties and interest that resulted from the audits of their returns. And at least one client had to barrow against their house to pay the debt to the IRS.