The Justice Department today announced recent results of its civil injunction efforts to combat unscrupulous tax return preparers and tax fraud promoters. According to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates, 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare and file their tax returns. Paid tax return preparers now prepare more than 80 million individual tax returns annually. For more than a decade, the department’s Tax Division, working with the Internal Revenue Service, has pursued a civil injunction program to stop fraudulent return preparers and promoters from violating federal tax laws and consumer protection laws. With the current tax-filing season underway, the Tax Division in the last six months has obtained permanent injunctions against more than 30 preparers and promoters doing business all over the United States.
Since Oct. 1, 2012, the Tax Division has obtained civil injunctions against both large-scale return preparation franchises and smaller, independent return preparers and promoters across the country. For example, on Oct. 22, 2012, a U.S. District Court in Dayton, Ohio, entered preliminary injunctions against ITS Financial LLC and its CEO, Fesum Ogbazion. ITS Financial is the parent company that owns the Dayton-based Intstant Tax Service tax-preparation franchise operation. Instant Tax Service claims to be the fourth-largest tax-preparation firm in the nation. The preliminary injunction remains in force pending trial on the government’s request for a permanent injunction, currently scheduled for May 2013. During December, January and February, federal district courts also permanently enjoined current and former Instant Tax Service franchisees in Las Vegas, Kansas City and Los Angeles , and entered a preliminary injunction against an Instant Tax Service franchisee in Indianapolis. Similarly, on March 1, 2013, a U.S. District Court in Tennessee permanently shut down a licensee of Memphis-based Mo’ Money Taxes LLC and MoneyCo USA LLC. Federal courts have also shut down return preparers in Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, and promoters of alleged tax-fraud schemes in Michigan, New York and Kansas.
As alleged in the Tax Division’s civil injunction complaints, fraudulent return preparers commonly falsify information to take advantage of refundable credits available under federal tax law, often improperly manipulating customers’ income, expenses and dependents to hit the so-called “sweet spot” to maximize the refundable credit claimed. They also take advantage of customers by selling deceptive loan products with exhorbitant fees. As identified in the government’s complaints, some of the fraudulent schemes and practices that have been stopped through injunction orders recently include:
· Preparing phony tax-return forms with fabricated businesses and income;
· Claiming false education and homebuyer credits;
· Claiming false and inflated deductions;
· Claiming false filing status;
· Claiming false dependents;
· Selling deceptive loan products;
· Filing tax returns without customer consent or authorization;
· Preparing bogus W-2 forms, based on information from employee paystubs;
· Falsifying information on returns to claim inflated earned income tax credits; and
· Filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen taxpayer identities to obtain improper tax refunds.
Some preparers try to conceal their fraud by not signing the returns they prepare and by using stolen or fake social security numbers to misidentify the paid preparer.
“It is important that we make clear, especially now when honest taxpayers are filing their returns, that we will pursue those who would abuse our nation’s tax laws,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division Kathryn Keneally. “Fraudulent tax return preparers and tax scheme promoters too often seek to take advantage of their customers as well as to undermine our tax system. I commend the Tax Division’s attorneys and our colleagues at the Internal Revenue Service for their steady diligence and tireless work in uncovering and shutting down these schemes and scams.”
In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of tax-return preparers and tax fraud promoters. Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department website. Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’s “ Dirty Dozen Tax Scams.” For more information about choosing a tax return preparer, see the IRS website and the IRS YouTube Channel.