WASHINGTON – The United States sued a New Hebron, Miss., woman today to stop her from preparing federal income tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced. According to the government’s complaint, Hazel Harris (also known as Hazel Buckley) targets elderly customers who receive Social Security benefits and generates fraudulent income tax refunds on their behalf.
The complaint states that Harris tells her clients she is an accountant who specializes in refunds for Social Security recipients. In order to increase business, she is alleged to have advised potential customers to contact current clients who have received refunds as a result of her fraudulent return preparation.
Harris reportedly generates improper tax refunds by reporting only half of her customers’ Social Security benefits as taxable income, and by fabricating amounts of taxes withheld. Additionally, she has prepared the clients’ returns for multiple years at one time, regardless of whether a return has already been filed for those years.
The government alleges that Harris has prepared more than eight-thousand federal income tax returns for others since 2001. According to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates, she has claimed over $3.5 million in fraudulent refunds.
As stated in the government’s complaint, Harris prepared three fraudulent tax returns for an undercover IRS agent posing as a customer. The undercover agent reportedly gave Harris a statement showing Social Security disability income, with no tax withheld. Harris prepared returns for the agent claiming Social Security benefits as the only income and then fabricated withholdings to generate fraudulent refunds.
The complaint also explains that Harris goes to great lengths to conceal her role in the scheme. For example, she allegedly does not sign the returns she prepares, does not provide her taxpayer identification number, and instructs her customers to sign and submit their tax returns to the IRS.
“As today’s complaint shows, the Tax Division will vigorously go after and seek to stop those who cheat the elderly, the IRS, and their fellow honest tax-paying citizens,” said Nathan J. Hochman, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
Since 2001, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained injunctions against more than 310 tax return preparers and tax fraud promoters. Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department website, as is information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division.