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Friday, September 21, 2018

Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Tax Return Preparer Operating Stores in Florida

Tax Return Preparer and His Business Allegedly Prepares Tax Returns Making False Claims

The United States filed a civil injunction suit seeking to bar Phillip Mott Harris II and his Florida-based business, 24/7 Tax Services, LLC from owning, operating, or franchising a tax return preparation business or preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. 

The complaint, filed in United States District Court in Florida, also requests that the court require Harris and the LLC to disgorge ill-gotten fees that they obtained from the U.S. Treasury through the alleged false tax return preparation.

According to the complaint, Harris and his tax preparation business prepare and file tax returns to falsely increase their customers’ refunds, and profit through exorbitant, often undisclosed fees, at the expense of their customers and the U.S. Treasury.

The complaint alleges that Harris and the LLC engage in misconduct, including:

  • Falsely claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • Claiming improper filing status (e.g., head of household even though the person is not entitled to that status);
  • Fabricating businesses and related business income and expenses; and
  • Charging deceptive and unconscionable fees. 

According to the complaint, Harris previously worked at LBS Tax Services. Since September 2014, the United States has filed over 20 similar lawsuits in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, including suits against the franchisor of LBS and numerous former LBS franchisees and managers, many of whom allegedly rebranded and continued to operate tax preparation businesses. Through these lawsuits, the United States has obtained permanent injunctions and money judgments disgorging millions in ill-gotten tax preparation fees.

The IRS has a list of steps on its website that you can take and ten tips for choosing a tax preparer. Each year, the IRS releases the top 12 scams, known as the Dirty Dozen. Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’s Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2018, and taxpayers seeking a return preparer should remain vigilant. The IRS has some information on its website for choosing a return 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.  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 this page.  If you believe that one of the enjoined persons or businesses may be violating an injunction, please contact the Tax Division at tax.mail@usdoj.gov with details.

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
Updated September 21, 2018