Maryland Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Defraud the IRS

Maryland Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Defraud the IRS

The U.S. Department Of Justice announced on March 5, 2021 in a press release that Anita Fortune, age 56, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, who provided return preparation services under multiple business names, including Tax Terminatorz Inc., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return.

Guilty Plea.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Ms. Fortune prepared and filed returns using co-conspirators’ electronic filing identification numbers and identifiers, which they provided in exchange for fees and office space.  For the tax years 2011 to 2018, Ms. Fortune and her associates fraudulently reduced their clients’ tax liabilities and increased their refunds by adding fictitious or inflated itemized deductions and business losses to the clients’ returns.  In total, Ms. Fortune caused a tax loss to the IRS of $189,748.

Ms. Fortune is scheduled to be sentenced on June 4, 2021, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy count and three years for the preparing a false return count.  Ms. Fortune also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

IRS announces arrests and indictments after two-week campaign to fight refund fraud and identity theft. 

The Federal District Courts should expect to see more of these cases as the IRS announced on March 20, 2019 the results of a national two-week enforcement and education campaign to combat refund crimes and identity theft that resulted in numerous legal actions against suspected criminals and businesses committing these crimes.

“Identity theft is a pervasive crime and stopping it remains a top priority of the IRS,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS, with the help of our Security Summit partners, continues to make progress in this area, but we need to continue our significant efforts to protect taxpayers and assist those who have been a victim of identity theft. We are fighting this problem with enhanced systems, smarter technology and the efforts of our dedicated workforce, including Criminal Investigation. We will retain our relentless, vigorous pursuit of those who prey upon others in this arena”.

Working with the Department of Justice Tax Division and U.S. Attorneys around the nation, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) made 11 arrests, indicted 15 individuals and saw five other individuals or businesses sentenced who perpetrated some type of refund fraud or identity theft scheme.

What Should You Do?

Whether you are a victim of identity theft or the perpetrator of identity theft, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve your rights and/or mitigate your losses.  The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with the IRS as well as State Tax Agencies.  Our experience and expertise not only levels the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

First It Was Coinbase, Now It Is Poloniex – Court Authorizes Service of John Doe Summons Seeking Identities of U.S. Taxpayers Who Have Used Cryptocurrency

First It Was Coinbase, Now It Is Poloniex – Court Authorizes Service of John Doe Summons Seeking Identities of U.S. Taxpayers Who Have Used Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency / Bitcoin – Is this the 21st century answer to hiding assets in Swiss bank accounts? 

The IRS thinks this is the case which is why in 2018 the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

IRS Access To Cryptocurrency Transactions.

Following the success of the results of a John Doe Summons issued to Coinbase, Inc. as I previously reported, on April 1, 2021 the U.S. Department Of Justice announced that a federal court in the District of Massachusetts entered an order today authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on Circle Internet Financial Inc., or its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliates, including Poloniex LLC (collectively “Circle”), seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted at least the equivalent of $20,000 in transactions in cryptocurrency during the years 2016 to 2020. The IRS is seeking the records of Americans who engaged in business with or through Circle, a digital currency exchanger headquartered in Boston.

Under the order, Circle will be required to turn over the names, addresses and tax identification numbers on its account holders. The Court has ordered Circle to produce the following customer information: (1) taxpayer ID number, (2) name, (3) birth date, (4) address, (5) records of account activity, including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, and the names of counterparties to the transaction, and (6) all periodic statements of account or invoices (or the equivalent).

“Those who transact with cryptocurrency must meet their tax obligations like any other taxpayer,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. Hubbert of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with the IRS to ensure that cryptocurrency owners are paying their fair share of taxes.”

“Tools like the John Doe summons authorized today send the clear message to U.S. taxpayers that the IRS is working to ensure that they are fully compliant in their use of virtual currency,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The John Doe summons is a step to enable the IRS to uncover those who are failing to properly report their virtual currency transactions. We will enforce the law where we find systemic noncompliance or fraud.”

Cryptocurrency, as generally defined, is a digital representation of value. Because transactions in cryptocurrencies can be difficult to trace and have an inherently pseudo-anonymous aspect, taxpayers may be using them to hide taxable income from the IRS. In the court’s order, U.S. Judge Richard G. Stearns found that there is a reasonable basis for believing that cryptocurrency users may have failed to comply with federal tax laws.

Starting with 2019, Form 1040 Makes It Harder For U.S. Taxpayers To Avoid Non-compliance Or Claim Ignorance.

Since 2019, Form 1040, Schedule1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income, now includes the following checkbox question:

At any time during [the calendar year], did you receive, sell, send, exchange or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?   ◊ Yes            ◊ No

Taxpayers who file Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on Form 1040 will now be required to check the appropriate box to answer the virtual currency question. Taxpayers do not need to file Schedule 1 if their answer to this question is NO and they do not have to file Schedule 1 for any other purpose. This requirement is similar to how the IRS includes questions on Schedule B inquiring whether a taxpayer has foreign bank accounts.

Taxpayers who answer “no” and for who the IRS later determines should have answered “yes” could face civil or criminal penalties and it could affect their success in having penalties abated for reasonable cause.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

Voluntary Disclosure – The Way To Avoid Criminal Fines & Punishment

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

What Should You Do?

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.  And now that like-exchange treatment is prohibited on transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even it’s is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward.

Take control of this risk and engage a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including Walnut Creek and San Jose) and other California locations.  We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.  Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

Businessman Indicted For Not Reporting Foreign Bank Accounts And Filing False Documents With The IRS

Businessman Indicted For Not Reporting Foreign Bank Accounts And Filing False Documents With The IRS

In recent years the IRS has made the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) penalty enforcement a top priority and this is alarming the taxpayers worldwide. Even in the course of every routine domestic IRS audit, IRS agents are looking for undisclosed foreign bank accounts.

On March 3, 2021 the Department Of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release of a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returning an indictment, charging a Virginia man with failing to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR’s) and filing false documents with the IRS.

Indictment Details

According to the indictment, Azizur Rahman of Herndon, Virginia, had a financial interest in and signature authority over more than 20 foreign financial accounts, including accounts held in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Singapore, and Bangladesh. From 2010 through 2016, he allegedly did not disclose his interest in all of his financial accounts on annual FBARs, as required by law. Mr. Rahman also allegedly filed false individual tax returns for the tax years 2010 through 2016 that did not report to the IRS all of his foreign bank accounts and income.

Mr. Rahman is also charged with filing a false “Streamlined Submission” in conjunction with the IRS Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. Those procedures allowed eligible taxpayers residing within the United States, who failed to report gross income from foreign financial accounts on prior tax returns, failed to pay taxes on that gross income, or who failed to submit an FBAR disclosing foreign financial accounts, to voluntarily disclose their conduct to the IRS and to pay a reduced penalty if their conduct was non-willful. The indictment alleges that Mr. Rahman’s Streamlined Submission did not truthfully disclose all the foreign bank accounts in which he had an interest, and falsely claimed that his failure to report all income, pay all tax, and submit all required information returns, such as FBARs, was non-willful.

If convicted, Mr. Rahman faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison for each of the counts related to filing false tax documents. He also faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each count relating to his failure to file an FBAR or filing a false FBAR.

The legal proceedings are expected to be conducted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

What You Must Know About IRS FBAR Penalty Negotiations

  1. The penalties for noncompliance in FBAR enforcement are staggering.

FBAR penalties can be unfair as the penalties are based on the account size and not on how much tax you avoided. This is a stark contrast to other IRS penalties which are based on how much additional tax is owed.  Given this difference you will always have a bigger risk and more to lose when dealing with FBAR penalties.

  1. The two types of FBAR penalties.

The “get off gently FBAR penalty” – If the IRS feels that you made an innocent mistake and “not willfully” ignored to file your FBAR, your “get off gently penalty” will be $10,000 per overseas account per year not reported. To illustrate, if you have five foreign accounts that you failed to report on your FBAR in each of five years, the IRS can penalize you $250,000 regardless of whether you even have that amount sitting in your foreign accounts.

The “disastrous FBAR penalty” – If the IRS can show that you “intentionally” avoided filing your FBAR’s, your minimum “disastrous FBAR penalty” will be 50% of your account value.   Additionally, the IRS may also press for criminal charges and if convicted of a willful violation, this can also lead to jail time. The “disastrous FBAR penalty” can also be assessed multiple times thus wiping out your entire savings.

  1. The taxpayer’s burden of proving “reasonable cause”

You are obligated to pay the penalty the IRS deems necessary. The IRS can assume the “disastrous FBAR penalty” and they are not required to prove willfulness. It will be the taxpayer that bears the heavy burden of proving that the taxpayer’s failure to comply was due to reasonable cause and not from “willful neglect”.

  1. Your appeal option.

Having exhausted all administrative remedies within the IRS first, you can then appeal the proposed FBAR penalties to a Federal District Court but for that court to have jurisdiction you must pay the assessments in full and then sue the IRS in a district court for refund. Since coming up with the money may be impossible for most taxpayers, consider hiring an experienced tax attorney to make the most of the IRS appeals process and perhaps avoid the need for litigation.  Keep in mind that in the appeals process, you do not have to pay any FBAR penalty until the end. Second, you can be successful if IRS remedies itself thus making court filings unnecessary. And third, even if the administrative remedies do not yield you success, your tax attorney can attempt to negotiate with the IRS to lower your FBAR penalties without going for a trial.

  1. The Voluntary Disclosure Route.

The streamlined filing compliance procedures are available to taxpayers certifying that their failure to report foreign financial assets and pay all tax due in respect of those assets did not result from willful conduct on their part. The streamlined procedures are designed to provide to taxpayers in such situations (1) a streamlined procedure for filing amended or delinquent returns and (2) terms for resolving their tax and penalty obligations.

Taxpayers will be required to certify that the failure to report all income, pay all tax, and submit all required information returns, including FBARs (FinCEN Form 114, previously Form TD F 90-22.1), was due to non-willful conduct.

If the IRS has initiated a civil examination of a taxpayer’s returns for any taxable year, regardless of whether the examination relates to undisclosed foreign financial assets, the taxpayer will not be eligible to use the streamlined procedures. Similarly, a taxpayer under criminal investigation by IRS Criminal Investigation is also ineligible to use the streamlined procedures.

Taxpayers eligible to use the streamlined procedures who have previously filed delinquent or amended returns in an attempt to address U.S. tax and information reporting obligations with respect to foreign financial assets (so-called “quiet disclosures”) may still use the streamlined procedures.

What Should You Do?

If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, you should seriously consider making a voluntary disclosure to the IRS. Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Mississippi Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for False IRS Returns

Mississippi Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for False IRS Returns

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi announced on November 5, 2020 in a press release that Talvesha Glaude who owned and operated a tax return preparation business was sentenced to 22 months in prison for preparing false income tax returns and ordered to serve one year of supervised release and to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $183,360.

The Details

Talvesha Glaude of Moss Point, Mississippi owned and operated a tax return preparation business under multiple names, including TMG Tax Service and Regional Tax Service. From 2013 through 2019, Ms. Glaude prepared tax returns for clients seeking from the IRS inflated refunds based on fraudulent dependents, federal income tax withholdings, and education credits. In addition to preparing false returns for her clients, Ms. Glaude also filed false returns for herself for the tax years 2014 through 2018.

The conviction culminated what started from a comprehensive investigation conducted by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division which was then referred to the Tax Division of the U.S. Department Of Justice for prosecution.

Tax Preparer Penalties

Even with the possibility that a tax preparer can be subject to criminal prosecution, tax preparers face substantial civil penalties for failing to meet standards to their clients and what is imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.  Internal Revenue Code § 6694(a) imposes the standards that tax preparers must follow. Prior to the 2007 amendment to this Section, tax return preparer penalties applied to a person who prepared for compensation, a federal income tax return or claim for refund. The penalties did not apply to any other types of returns such as employment or estate tax returns. The former Section also included a $250 penalty for an income tax return preparer who knew or reasonably should have known, of the position that caused the understatement due to a frivolous position or an undisclosed position for which there was not at least a realistic possibility of being sustained on the merits. An income tax preparer engaging in willful or reckless conduct with respect to preparing an income tax return under the former Section was subject to a penalty of $1,000.

New Code §6694(a) as amended by the Small Business And Work Opportunity Tax Act of 2007 (the “Act”) extends to all types of federal tax returns, including estate and gift tax returns, employment tax returns, excise tax returns and returns of exempt organizations.

The Act now requires that the preparer have a reasonable belief that the tax treatment of the position is “more likely than not” the proper treatment. The penalty which can be imposed on the preparer is the greater of $1,000.00 or 50% of the income derived (or to be derived) by the preparer. For willful or reckless conduct, the penalty which can be imposed on the preparer is the greater of $5,000.00 or 50% of the income derived (or to be derived) by the preparer.

Other civil penalties that can be imposed against income tax returns preparers include:

  • Failure by an income tax preparer to sign a required return. IRC § 6695(b).
  • Failure by an income tax return preparer to furnish a required taxpayer identification number. IRC § 6695(c).
  • Failure by an income tax return preparer to furnish a copy of the tax return to the taxpayer. IRC § 6695(a).
  • Failure by an income tax return preparer to retain a completed copy of the return or a record of the taxpayer’s name, identification number, taxable year, and type of return prepared. IRC § 6695(d).
  • Failure by an income tax return preparer to comply with the due diligence requirements with respect to determining a taxpayer’s eligibility for, or amount of, the earned income credit. IRC § 6695(g).
  • Aiding and aiding and abetting the understatement of a tax liability. IRC § 6701.
  • Disclosing or using any tax return information other than to prepare or assist in preparing the taxpayer’s return. IRC § 6713(a).

Even without bringing a criminal prosecution the IRS may seek to enjoin an income tax return preparer engaging in specific abusive practices or from acting as an income tax return preparer. IRC § 7407(a). An injunction may be issued if a court determines that the preparer has (1) engaged in conduct subject to a preparer penalty under §6694 or §6695, (2) engaged in conduct subject to a criminal penalty under the Internal Revenue Code, (3) misrepresented his eligibility to practice before the IRS, (4) misrepresented his experience or education as a preparer, (5) guaranteed the payment of any tax refund or the allowance of any tax credit, or (6) engaged in any other fraudulent or deceptive conduct that substantially interferes with the proper administration of the tax law; and that injunctive relief is appropriate to prevent the recurrence of such conduct.

 

What Should You Do?

If the IRS is considering a penalty against you as a professional you should seek immediate assistance from a qualified tax attorney at this earliest possible time.  The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with the IRS as well as State Tax Agencies.  Our experience and expertise not only level the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

U.S. Successfully Disrupts Three Terror Finance Cyber-Enabled Campaigns

U.S. Successfully Disrupts Three Terror Finance Cyber-Enabled Campaigns

Using the same tools in the investigations of U.S. taxpayers, this is the largest ever seizure of terrorist organizations’ cryptocurrency accounts.

The Department Of Justice on August 13, 2020 announced the dismantling of three terrorist financing cyber-enabled campaigns, involving the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).  This coordinated operation is detailed in three forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint unsealed in the District of Columbia.

The announcement states that these three terror finance campaigns all relied on sophisticated cyber-tools, including the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world.  The action demonstrates how different terrorist groups have similarly adapted their terror finance activities to the cyber age.  Each group used cryptocurrency and social media to garner attention and raise funds for their terror campaigns.  Pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise.

“IRS-CI’s ability to trace funds used by terrorist groups to their source and dismantle these radical group’s communication and financial networks directly prevents them from wreaking havoc throughout the world,” said Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation.

The tools and systems used by IRS in nabbing the cryptocurrency accounts of these three terrorist organizations are the same as those being you to nab non-compliant U.S. taxpayers who are not reporting their cryptocurrency transactions.

Investigations Of U.S. Taxpayers

The IRS has one of the most extensive data collections in the world. Traditionally its power to enforce has come through the matching of data. For example, you received a W-2 Form from your employer showing how much you earned. That same form is submitted by your employer to the IRS. Now the IRS can match your return to that form to make sure you are reporting the income. The same thing goes for 1099 forms showing your earnings from miscellaneous income, gambling winnings, interest and dividend income, sales of assets, deductions, and so on.

But with Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies, there is no such third-party reporting.  Digital exchanges are not broker-regulated by the IRS. Exchanges do not issue a 1099 form, nor do they calculate gains or cost basis for the trader. But the IRS is not stopping here…

Chainalysis Reactor Software

Chainalysis is a company that created a cryptocurrency-tracing software dubbed “Reactor” which is being used by at least 10 federal agencies including the IRS.  The IRS Cyber Crimes Unit (CCU), a five-year-old division of its larger Criminal Investigation (CI) wing and the leader in the IRS’ cryptocurrency crimes investigations, uses this software as a tool to help identify taxpayers who could be non-compliant in the tax laws or involved in criminal activity.  The IRS has also engaged another company, Excygent, to further enhance the IRS’ investigative capabilities.

IRS-CI Deputy Chief Jim Lee has signaled that his agents’ crypto-tracing resources and expertise are “in demand” even outside of the IRS and that “U.S. Attorneys want IRS-CI agents in all of their financial crime cases. The fact of the matter is, if a case involves money and it’s a crime that rises to the federal level, IRS-CI almost always has jurisdiction. There is no better example to this than in tracing cryptocurrency transactions.”

IRS-CI Chief Don Fort has been even more explicit of CI agents’ assistance to other federal agencies stating that by utilizing Chainalysis the IRS and the Department of Justice dismantled a sprawling child pornography ring in South Korea.

Virtual currency is an ongoing focus area for IRS Criminal Investigation.

In 2018 the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

IRS Access To Cryptocurrency Transactions.

A John Doe Summons issued by IRS was ruled enforceable by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in November 2017 (United States v. Coinbase, Inc., United States District Court, Northern District Of California, Case No.17-cv-01431).  Coinbase located in San Francisco is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States.  Under the order, Coinbase will be required to turn over the names, addresses and tax identification numbers on 14,355 account holders. The Court has ordered Coinbase to produce the following customer information: (1) taxpayer ID number, (2) name, (3) birth date, (4) address, (5) records of account activity, including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, and the names of counterparties to the transaction, and (6) all periodic statements of account or invoices (or the equivalent).

ON MARCH 16, 2018 COINBASE COMPLIED WITH THIS SUMMONS AND TURNED OVER DATA OF 14,355 ACCOUNT HOLDERS TO IRS.

Now while this net may not pick up taxpayers whose accounts have less than $20,000 in any one transaction type (buy, sell, send, or receive) in any one year from 2013 to 2015, it should be clear that this is the first step for the IRS to crush non-compliance for all taxpayers involved with cryptocurrency just like the IRS was successful in battling taxpayers having undisclosed foreign bank accounts.

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Receiving Warning Letters From The IRS

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Notices Being Sent To Taxpayers Are The First Step In IRS Enforcement Action

The IRS is using three types of notices to send to more than 10,000 taxpayers by the end of August 2019 – notices 61736174 or 6174-A. All three notices indicate the IRS has information that the taxpayer receiving the notice currently has or has had virtual currency. However, it is Letter 6173 that is most serious as it requires a signature from the recipient under perjury that they are compliant with the U.S. tax code or requiring taxpayers to respond to the IRS and either file delinquent returns for tax years 2013 through 2017 or amend previously filed returns and include the applicable forms or schedules reporting cryptocurrency transactions. If you receive a Letter 6173, it should be a virtual certainty that you will be selected for examination.

If you receive Letter 6173, you should consult with a tax attorney as the submission of a statement signed under penalties of perjury that is false can result in serious consequences including criminal prosecution.

2019 Form 1040 Makes It Harder For U.S. Taxpayers To Avoid Non-compliance Or Claim Ignorance.

The 2019 Form 1040, Schedule1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income, now includes the following checkbox question:

At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?   ◊ Yes            ◊ No

Taxpayers who file Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on Form 1040 will now be required to check the appropriate box to answer the virtual currency question. Taxpayers do not need to file Schedule 1 if their answer to this question is NO and they do not have to file Schedule 1 for any other purpose. This requirement is similar to how the IRS includes questions on Schedule B inquiring whether a taxpayer has foreign bank accounts.

Taxpayers who answer “no” and for who the IRS later determines should have answered “yes” could face civil or criminal penalties and it could affect their success in having penalties abated for reasonable cause.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS! And this is why the IRS is first sending Letter 6173 requiring a signature from the recipient under perjury that the taxpayer is compliant with the U.S. tax code BEFORE the IRS then decides to audit the taxpayer.

Voluntary Disclosure – The Way To Avoid Criminal Fines & Punishment

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

What Should You Do?

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.  And now that like-exchange treatment is prohibited on transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even it’s is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward.

Take control of this risk and engage a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including Walnut Creek and San Jose) and other California locations.  We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.  Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

U.S. Attorney’s Office Files Charges In Rhode Island Against Two Borrowers Alleging Fraud In Seeking Paycheck Protection Loans

U.S. Attorney’s Office Files Charges In Rhode Island Against Two Borrowers Alleging Fraud In Seeking Paycheck Protection Loans

This is the first case in the nation to be charged with fraudulently seeking CARES Act SBA Paycheck Protection Loans.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District Of Rhode Island announced on May 5, 2020 in a press release that two businessmen have been charged with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently seeking more than a half-million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Charges Filed By The U.S. Attorney’s Office

David A. Staveley, aka Kurt D. Sanborn, 52, of Andover, Massachusetts, and David Butziger, 51, of Warwick, Rhode Island, are charged with conspiring to seek forgivable loans guaranteed by the SBA, claiming to have dozens of employees earning wages at four different business entities when, as alleged by prosecutors, there were no employees working for any of the businesses.

Staveley and Butziger are charged by way of a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to make false statement to influence the SBA and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Additionally, Staveley is charged with aggravated identity theft. Butziger is charged with bank fraud.

According to court documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Providence, Rhode Island, the fraudulent loan requests were to pay employees of businesses that were not operating prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and had no salaried employees, or, as in one instance, to pay employees at a business the loan applicant did not own.

Allegedly, Staveley and Butziger discussed via email the creation of fraudulent loan applications and supporting documentations to seek loans guaranteed by the SBA for COVID-19 relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It is alleged that Staveley posed as his brother in real estate transactions.

It is alleged that Staveley claimed in loan applications requesting more than $438,500 that he had dozens of employees at three restaurants he owned, two in Warwick, Rhode Island, and one in Berlin, Massachusetts. An investigation determined that one of the Rhode Island restaurants, the former Remington House, and the Massachusetts restaurant, On The Trax, were not open for business prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the time the loan applications were submitted, or at any time thereafter. Moreover, Staveley did not own or have any role in the second Rhode Island restaurant, Top of the Bay, for which he was seeking financial relief.

According to court documents, Staveley’s Massachusetts restaurant was closed by March 10, 2020, when the town of Berlin revoked the business’ liquor license for numerous reasons, including that “Sanborn” allegedly misrepresented that his brother owned the restaurant. Investigators obtained information that Staveley/Sanborn allegedly used his brother’s personal identifying information in other real estate transactions as well.

According to court documents, it is alleged that on April 6, 2020, Butziger filed an application seeking a $105,381 SBA loan under the PPP as owner of an unincorporated entity named Dock Wireless.  Butziger claimed in documentation filed with the bank and in a telephone call with an FBI undercover agent posing as a bank compliance officer that he had seven full-time employees on Dock Wireless’ payroll, including himself. Butziger falsely represented to the agent that he brought the employees on full-time on January 1, 2020, and laid them off at the end of March. Butziger claimed the employees continued to work without being paid through April 2020, and that he would use SBA PPP funds to pay them.

The Rhode Island State Department of Revenue provided information to the IRS of having no records of employee wages having been paid in 2020 by Butziger or Dock Wireless. Agents interviewed several of the supposed Dock Wireless employees who reported that they never worked for Butziger or Dock Wireless.

Keep in mind that the filing of charges in a federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The CARES Act

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP.  In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

The PPP allows qualifying small-businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%.  PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.  The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within eight weeks of receipt and use at least 75% of the forgiven amount for payroll.

On April 23, 2020, the SBA issued guidance in the form of an additional FAQ. The guidance, outlined in FAQ 31, reminds borrowers that they “should review carefully the required certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.”

More specifically, FAQ 31 provides:

Question: Do businesses owned by large companies with adequate sources of liquidity to support the business’s ongoing operations qualify for a PPP loan?

Answer: In addition to reviewing applicable affiliation rules to determine eligibility, all borrowers must assess their economic need for a PPP loan under the standard established by the CARES Act and the PPP regulations at the time of the loan application. Although the CARES Act suspends the ordinary requirement that borrowers must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere (as defined in section 3(h) of the Small Business Act), borrowers still must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary. Specifically, before submitting a PPP application, all borrowers should review carefully the required certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” Borrowers must make this certification in good faith, taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business.

Ramifications for Certifications Not Made in Good Faith

Borrowers that fail to make their certifications in good faith may be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Any borrower who knowingly makes a false statement to obtain forgiveness of an SBA-guaranteed loan is punishable under the law, including 18 USC §§1001 and 3571 by imprisonment of not more than five years and/or a fine of up to $250,000; under 15 USC §645 by imprisonment of not more than two years and/or a fine of not more than $5,000; and, if submitted to a Federally insured institution, under 18 USC §1014 by imprisonment of not more than thirty years and/or a fine of not more than $1,000,000.  The Federal District Courts could expect to see more of these cases as the SBA and U.S. Treasury audits any borrower that has received over $2 million in PPP loan proceeds and conducts spot checks for smaller loans.

What Should You Do?

Whether you are looking to legally optimize the disbursement of your PPP Loan proceeds to assure loan forgiveness or defending charges of certification not made in good faith, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve your rights and/or mitigate your losses.  The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with Federal agencies including the SBA, U.S. Treasury and the IRS.  Our experience and expertise not only level the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  Additionally, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

President Trump Seeking To Prosecute Legalized Adult-use Marijuana Businesses

On June 20, 2019, the House of Representatives voted to restrict the Department Of Justice (“DOJ”) from interfering with States that have legalized adult-use marijuana, including those allowing recreational use, cultivation and sales. This amendment was attached to a large-scale appropriations bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020.

But under the 2021 Federal Budget released by the Trump Administration, President Trump proposes slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs which would open the door for the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and other federal law enforcement agencies to use federal funds to shut down medical marijuana programs.

Marijuana Remains Illegal Under Federal Law

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

House Appropriations Bill Amendment

The Blumenauer McClintock Amendment sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) that was included in the appropriations bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020, states that:

None of the funds made available under this House Appropriations Bill to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent to any State, territory or D.C. from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.

In the past such amendment (starting in 2014) was limited to medical marijuana state-licensed business but this expansion is huge given that nearly one in four Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute.

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 33 states and Washington DC. Those 33 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states.

Eleven states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those ten states being Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam.

Amendment Spearheaded By Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

The amendment was voted in by Congress in a 267 to 165 bipartisan vote. “It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.”

The fate of whether this amendment will continue in the 2021 Federal budget is unknown for now. Historically the Senate’s Appropriations Committee has been relatively open to attaching marijuana riders to spending bills, and has consistently approved the medical cannabis protections, but the body’s Republican leadership may be reluctant to go against President Trump’s wishes when it comes to enforcing federal prohibition against licensed businesses and consumers in states that allow marijuana use and sales.

Keep in mind that if this amendment is part of the 2021 Federal budget that ultimately gets approved, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be in complete compliance with your State’s cannabis laws and regulations. 

But until Federal law changes, the cannabis industry will still have to bear the followings risks and challenges:

Higher Taxes Still Remain

It still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the marijuana industry differently resulting in such business paying at least 3-times as much in taxes as ordinary businesses.

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Marijuana, including medical marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in marijuana have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file

IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

Marijuana-related businesses operate in an environment of cash transactions as many banks remain reluctant to do business with many in the marijuana industry. Like any cash-based business the IRS scrutinizes the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash. So it is of most importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records.

How Do You Know Which Cannabis Tax Attorney Is Best For You?

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government especially if President Trump’s budget proposal slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs passes.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Los Angeles and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a Bitcoin Tax Attorney can do for you.

Former Silk Road Senior Advisor Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court

Roger Thomas Clark Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court

On January 30, 2020, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) issued a press release that Roger Thomas Clark, who was also known as “Plural of Mongoose” or “Variety Jones,” pled guilty for conspiring to distribute illicit narcotics in mass quantities. The press release stated that Mr. Clark was the senior advisor to the owner and operator of the Silk Road online illicit black market and in committing his crime also used the online nicknames “CaptainSargeant”, “VJ,” and “Cimon”.

What Was “Silk Road”?

Silk Road” was created by Ross Ulbricht in January 2011.  He owned and operated an underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement authorities in October 2013.  Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet at the time, serving as a sprawling black-market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs including cannabis, were bought and sold regularly by the site’s users.  While in operation, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services to well over 100,000 buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.

Silk Road enabled its users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement.  Silk Road was operated on what is known as “The Onion Router,” or “Tor” network, a special network of computers on the Internet, distributed around the world, designed to conceal the true IP addresses of the computers on the network and thereby the identities of the network’s users.  Silk Road also included a Bitcoin-based payment system that served to facilitate the illegal commerce conducted on the site, including by concealing the identities and locations of the users transmitting and receiving funds through the site.

Mr. Ulbricht was eventually convicted and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was denied on June 28, 2018.  Already he has been languishing in prison for half a decade now.

Clark Guilty Plea

The press release stated that Mr. Clark was described by Mr. Ulbricht as a “real mentor” who advised Ulbricht about, among other things, security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road site, technical infrastructure, and the rules that governed Silk Road users and vendors, and the promotion of sales on Silk Road, including the sales of narcotics.  Clark also provided advice to Ulbricht on developing a “cover story” to make it appear as though Ulbricht had sold Silk Road.  Clark also assisted with hiring programmers to help improve the infrastructure of, and maintain, Silk Road.  Clark also was responsible for gathering information on law enforcement’s efforts to investigate Silk Road and Clark advised Ulbricht on how to protect the Silk Road Empire.  For instance, when a Silk Road staff member was suspected of stealing $350,000 in Bitcoin from the site, Clark suggested to Ulbricht that Ulbricht commission a murder-for-hire.  Ulbricht took that suggestion.  (Ultimately, unbeknownst to both men, the attempted murder-for-hire did not result in any harm to the target.) Clark was paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for his assistance in operating Silk Road.

Mr. Clark, age 56 and a citizen of Canada, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  He is scheduled to be sentenced in Federal District Court on May 29, 2020.

Clark’s Troubles Could Spill Over To IRS

For individuals nabbed by the Federal Government, it is not surprising that the IRS gets involved and they are also charged with tax crimes.

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

It is risky enough to be involved in cannabis (which is illegal under Federal law) or crypto-currency, so imagine how much riskier it is combining both.  It is important to control this risk which you can do by engaging a cannabis tax attorney or a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations.  We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2019 Annual Report

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2019 Annual Report

On December 5, 2019 the IRS released the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CI) annual report, highlighting significant successes and criminal enforcement actions taken in fiscal year ending September 30, 2019.

In issuing this report IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig states: “CI is critical to the overall enforcement efforts of the IRS in pursuing its Mission in a fair, impartial, diligent and, where appropriate, tenacious manner. The Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report summarizes various CI activities throughout the year but vastly understates the importance of CI to the overall IRS mission. CI supports the efforts of compliant taxpayers by visibly demonstrating the risks of noncompliance thereby helping otherwise honest taxpayers stay honest and compliant.”

According to the report, CI initiated 2,485 cases in fiscal year 2019, applying approximately 75% of its time to tax related investigations. CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over federal tax crimes achieving a conviction rate of 91.2% in fiscal year 2019.

The Special Agent’s Role In The IRS Criminal Investigation Division

An IRS Special Agent works for the CI. Special Agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to “follow the money”. They investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, and related financial crimes. Unless they are working undercover they will identify themselves with credentials which include a gold badge. The same gold badge appears on their business cards. Generally, IRS Special Agents travel in pairs if they are going to interview someone. One to conduct the interview, and the other to take notes, and act as a witness if necessary.

If you are contacted by an IRS Special Agent it is because he or she is conducting a CRIMINAL investigation. It is possible that the Special Agent is only interested in you as a witness against the target of the IRS investigation. However, it is a bad idea to speak to Special Agent without a criminal tax attorney present. IRS Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators. If you are the target or subject of an IRS criminal investigation you are not going to talk your way out of it, by “cooperating”; instead you may be giving the IRS more evidence to use against you.

Even if the IRS Special Agent tells you that you are only a witness you should still consult with an experienced criminal tax attorney BEFORE speaking with an IRS agent. If you make misstatements that you think put you in a better light you could change your role from a witness into a target. The best tactic is to simply tell the Special Agent that you are uncomfortable talking to him until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney. Then ask him for his business card. In this way your tax attorney can contact the Special Agent directly, and determine the best course of action.

There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.

If CI recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.

Two Special Programs Run By CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, CI has been running two special programs: the International Tax Enforcement Group (ITEG), and the Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU). Both focus on increasing the rate of taxpayer compliance with income reporting requirements contained in the Internal Revenue Code – particularly those pertaining to the disclosure of foreign financial accounts, reporting of virtual currency transactions, and reporting transactions involving cannabis.

What Should You Do?

Very quickly a criminal investigation can turn to the worst for a targeted taxpayer so you should promptly seek tax counsel who can act proactively before the IRS does. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Santa Barbara County Police Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Operation

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation Seizing 1,700 Marijuana Plants

Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California, you do not have to worry about the State.

California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the BCC. If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Raids Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation.

As reported by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, authorities received complaints regarding possible illegal marijuana cultivation occurring within the La Cresta community, Riverside County.

On November 14, 2019, deputies served a search warrant in the 39000 block of Calle De Campareno. Approximately 1700 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were located and collected. In addition, the electrical system within the residence was illegally altered causing a severe fire hazard and theft of utilities. The estimated theft of utilities for the last six months is going to be up words of approximately $60,000. The entire residence was turned into an illegal marijuana cultivation.

While making announcements regarding the service of a search warrant, two female individuals fled out the rear of the residence and were detained.  They were subsequently arrested for maintaining a drug house, illegal marijuana cultivation, and theft of utilities.

Meiyun Zhou, 38-year-old female resident of La Cresta, was arrested and booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

Xiao Mei Chen, 22-year-old female resident of Corona, was arrested and booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

The investigation is ongoing.

In a previous blog we wrote about Governor Gavin Newsom’s promise made in February 2019 to deploy the California National Guard against marijuana grows in California. Multijurisdictional task forces have long been deployed against marijuana grows in California as we noted in the following blogs:

  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Kern County
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Buellton.

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  2. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
  3. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  4. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  2. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

You can count on other county governments coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.