Federal Court Prohibits Nevada Tax Preparer from Preparing Returns Containing Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
A federal court has barred a North Las Vegas, Nevada, woman and her business from preparing federal tax returns that contain or involve foreign earned income and from promoting the exclusion of foreign earned income to others, the Justice Department announced today.
The civil injunction order, to which Sheila Bunting consented, was entered by U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan of the District of Nevada. The injunction also bars Bunting’s business, 5 Star Tax LLC, from continuing to prepare tax returns that contain or involve foreign earned income, and from promoting the exclusion of foreign earned income to others.
According to the complaint, Bunting inappropriately attempted to exclude foreign earned income from the calculation of her customers’ federal tax liabilities, which understated her customers’ correct tax liabilities or inflated improper refunds. Typically, U.S. citizens may exempt some foreign earned income from the calculation of gross income if they are present in a foreign country for at least 330 full days out of 12 consecutive months. This period can be waived when the Secretary of the Treasury determines, after consultation with the Secretary of State, that individuals were required to leave a foreign country due to war, civil unrest or other conditions that preclude the normal conduct of business, among other things. In implementing this waiver provision, each year the Secretary of the Treasury publishes a list of countries that have been determined eligible for waiver requests. According to the suit, Bunting disregarded the published list of waiver-eligible countries in filing the exclusion of foreign earned income on behalf of her customers.
The injunction requires Bunting to provide a list of customers that identifies by name, social security number, address, e-mail address, telephone number and tax periods, all persons for whom she has prepared federal tax returns or claims for refund since Jan. 1, 2012, that reference foreign earned income.
Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’s Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2015. The IRS has some tips on its website for choosing a tax preparer, and has launched a free directory of federal tax preparers. In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers and tax scheme promoters. Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department’s website. An alphabetical listing of persons enjoined from preparing returns and promoting tax schemes can be found on here. If you believe that one of the enjoined persons or businesses may be violating an injunction, please contact the Tax Division with details.