Florida Tax Return Preparer Found Guilty of Filing False Tax Returns and Theft of Government Funds

Florida Tax Return Preparer Found Guilty of Filing False Tax Returns and Theft of Government Funds

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District Of Florida announced on November 6, 2019 in a press release that Paul Senat, age 39, the owner and operator of American Fast Services & Tax, American Justice Services & Tax and AM & PM Tax Services, located in Palm Beach County, Florida, was convicted by a federal jury for aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns and theft of government funds.

Guilty Verdict.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from at least 2012 to 2016, Senat through his tax preparation business falsified his clients’ returns by reporting fictitious business losses and false education credits in order to fraudulently inflate their refunds.

Senat faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for theft of government funds and three years for each count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false returns. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture, and monetary penalties. A sentencing date has been set for January 27, 2020.

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.

Millions of taxpayers put their trust in tax professionals to prepare accurate and lawful returns.

Unfortunately, a few bad apples take advantage of that trust for their own greed and profit,” said Don Fort, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation. “CI’s special agents are highly skilled at unraveling fraudulent schemes. With our partners in other agencies and the private sector, we are dismantling these crooked enterprises and enforcing our tax laws”.

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), 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 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 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.

Trick Or Treat – Fake IRS Agents Stealing Your Identity And Scamming You For Money.

Trick Or Treat – Fake IRS Agents Stealing Your Identity And Scamming You For Money.

With Halloween coming up, it is just not the neighbor kids looking forward to trick or treat but also people pretending that they are the Internal Revenue Service looking to steal your identity and scam you for your money.

Arrests Announced.

On September 20, 2019 the police in the city of Fontana, California announced they arrested two suspects, Ailing Lu age 25 of Los Angeles charged with Theft by False Pretenses (PC 532(a)) and Conspiracy to commit crime (PC 182(a)(1)), and Ji Hyun Lee age 25 of Gardena charged with Conspiracy to commit crime (PC 182(a)(1)).

The two California women allegedly posed as Internal Revenue Service employees in a nation-wide phone scam that may have bilked several victims out of nearly a million dollars, police said. One of the victims received a “cold call” September 4th from someone posing as an IRS agent who threatened to arrest him if he didn’t pay $2,200 in Target gift cards. The victim complied with the caller’s instructions and later alerted the cops.

Investigators traced the gift cards to a Target in the Los Angeles area and used surveillance footage to identify these two suspects. The police found about $900,000 worth of new electronics, gift cards and other items at two locations and in vehicles linked to the two suspects. It is still unclear how many of the goods were procured via the scam but the police believe there may be more victims.

Big Problem For IRS.

The scam artists exploiting innocent law-abiding taxpayers has been a big problem for the IRS and despite issuing multiple consumer alerts, the bogus emails, the bogus IRS letters and the bogus telephone calls continue and unfortunately taxpayers are still falling for this. The government estimates that taxpayers have lost roughly $5 million to scammers.

Every week our office receives about a half-dozen inquiries from taxpayers asking whether the communication they just received is really from the IRS. I do not want you to become the next victim of any such scam so read on to what we have to say.

The communication methods used by the scammers are email, letters and telephone calls. The scammers are still going strong doing this to people who are unsuspecting and don’t know how systems work and could very easily frighten them to turn over money. So I am going to break down each type of fraudulent communication for you and give you the warning signs and tips that you should be aware of.

Emails.

When identity theft takes place over the Internet, it is called phishing. Phishing (as in “fishing for information” and “hooking” victims) is a scam where Internet fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. Current scams include phony e-mails which claim to come from the IRS and which lure the victims into the scam by telling them that they are due a tax refund.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue so if this is the form of communication used – avoid it like you would avoid the plague.

Letters.

If you receive a notice regarding your taxes which does not bear the official seal of the Internal Revenue Service and an official verifiable address of an IRS office or Service Center, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS sending you a notice.

The most recent scam that the public has told our office involves a sophisticated fraudulent tax collection notice scam targeting taxpayers for which the IRS has filed a Federal Tax Lien.

Here is how it works: The scammers will search public records for the filing of a Federal Tax Lien by IRS and with the information gathered from that filing will generate a form letter and mail it to the targeted taxpayer. The letter is designed to mimic an IRS notice but it is really coming from a third party having nothing to do with the IRS. If the recipient of the notice contacts the number listed, the person answering your call will purport to be working for the IRS. The intended victim is told he or she owes money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, he or she is then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the person who answered your call becomes hostile and insulting.

Telephone.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves. They may know a lot about you and may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number and your place of business. They usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling – many times they will use a Washington, D.C. area code. The area codes for the Washington D.C. area are 202, 301 and 703. They will also background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request and if they have your email address, will send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

How Do You Recognize That This Call Is Fake?

Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

  1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

What Should You Do?

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

And if you do owe taxes and you have not already resolved this with the IRS, then that is where we come in. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco 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, check out how we can help you if you are involved in cannabis or bitcoin.

failing to pay taxes could land you in jail

Beware: Failing To Pay The IRS Could Land You In Jail

Beware: Failing To Pay The IRS Could Land You In Jail

The IRS is notorious for taking aggressive collection action including filing tax liens, issuing wage garnishments, seizing assets and levying bank accounts in order to collect outstanding IRS debt. In some cases the IRS is also looking to make an example of what happens to taxpayers who do not cooperate in paying their taxes or even worse not filing tax returns.

Owner Of Colorado Business Sentenced To Prison For Tax Crimes.

In a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado, Douglas A. Wieland, a Colorado paving company owner, was sentenced to prison for failure to pay income taxes. Mr. Wieland was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison by U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson in Denver, Colorado. In September 2018, Mr. Wieland pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to pay income taxes, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7203.

According to court documents, Mr. Wieland owned and operated Performance Paving, a company that performed asphalt and concrete work. Mr. Wieland admitted that, from April 1999 through December 2017, he did not make any payments toward his income taxes. He also admitted that he took steps to conceal his income and assets to prevent the IRS from seizing his assets. He deposited over $1.8 million into a “warehouse bank” account and then used that account to pay for his personal expenses. The purpose of a “warehouse bank” is to maintain the financial privacy of all “account holders” by commingling the funds of numerous account holders in a single bank account, usually at a domestic bank in the United States. Mr. Wieland also cashed checks his customers gave him for his services, and admitted at a court proceeding held in Adams County, Colorado, that he “cashed a check somewhere outside the box so the IRS doesn’t steal it from my bank”.

In addition to the term of imprisonment imposed, Mr. Wieland was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $166,658.

Mr. Wieland should also expect that after serving his sentence he will be dealing with the Civil Division of the IRS who will be interested in conducting a full scale civil audit.

Penalties For Failure To File A Tax Return or 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).

Willful Failure To File – The law defines that any person who willfully fails to file a tax return as required by the Internal Revenue Code is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $25,000 ($100,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7203).

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?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (Long Beach and Ontario) 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 our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.

San Diego Crypto Currency Trader Indicted And Held Without Bond In The U.S. For Money Laundering

Do not think that just because digital exchanges are not broker-regulated by the IRS and digital exchanges are not obligated to issue a 1099 form reporting transactions, that your crypto currency transactions will always be a secret. The Federal government is cracking down on non-compliant traders.

Charges Filed Following Investigation By Federal Authorities

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District Of California (which serves San Diego) announced on August 17, 2018 in a press release that a bitcoin dealer, Jacob Burrell a/k/a Jacob Burrell Campos, was indicted for international money laundering and is being held without bond. Mr. Burrell was arrested on August 13, 2018 as he tried to enter the United States from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

According to statements made in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Ciaffa in the August 17th bond hearing, Mr. Burrell was a prolific Bitcoin dealer who sold approximately $750,000 worth of Bitcoin to hundreds of buyers throughout the United States. He conducted 971 separate transactions with over 900 individual customers, and accepted cash in person, through his bank accounts, and through MoneyGram.  AUSA Ciaffa told the court that Mr. Burrell operated as a Bitcoin “exchanger” and his activities constituted a “money transmitting business”.  As such, he was required to register with the Department of Treasury, and comply with all anti-money laundering requirements, including reporting suspicious cash transactions.  In this case, Mr. Burrell accepted cash “with no questions asked” and in return for a 5% fee, supplied hundreds of individuals with an easy outlet to avoid the anti-money laundering laws applicable to all financial institutions, including licensed and registered Bitcoin exchanges.  According to AUSA Ciaffa, Mr. Burrell’s activities “blew a giant hole” through the legal framework of U.S. anti-money laundering laws by soliciting and introducing into the U.S. banking system close to $1 million in unregulated cash.    

18 U.S.C. §1956 – Laundering Of Monetary Instruments

18 U.S.C. § 1956(a) defines three types of criminal conduct: domestic money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(1)); international money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(2)); and undercover “sting” money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(3)). Crypto currency traders and marijuana-related businesses need to be aware of domestic money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(1)).

To be criminally culpable under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1), a defendant must conduct or attempt to conduct a financial transaction, knowing that the property involved in the financial transaction represents the proceeds of some unlawful activity, and the property must in fact be derived from a specified unlawful activity.

Violations of § 1956 have a maximum potential 20-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine or twice the amount involved in the transaction, whichever is greater. There is also a civil penalty provision in § 1956(b) which may be pursued as a civil cause of action. Under this provision, persons who engage in violations of any of the subsections of 1956(a) are liable to the United States for a civil penalty of not more than the greater of $10,000 or the value of the funds involved in the transaction.

Mr. Burrell is being charged with 28 counts of money laundering. Each conviction for money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine or twice the amount involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.

Other charges and possible punishment in the indictment include:

  • Conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business, in violation of 18 USC 1960. Statutory maximum:  Five years in prison, $250,000 fine.
  • Failing to maintain an anti-money laundering program, in violation of 18 USC 5318(h), 5322(b). Statutory maximum: Ten years in prison, $500,000 fine.
  • Conspiracy to structure international instrument transactions, in violation of 18 USC 371 and 31 USC 5324(c)(3). Statutory maximum: Five years in prison, $250,000 fine.

Indictment Culminated Investigation By Multiple Federal Agencies

The Department Of Homeland Security (Homeland Security Investigation Unit), Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service investigated this case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford found that Mr. Burrell had significant ties to Mexico, citizenship in three countries, no steady employment in the United States, the ability to access large sums of cash, and a disdain and unwillingness to comply with U.S. laws. She concluded at the August 17th bond hearing that Mr. Burrell posed a substantial risk of flight, and ordered him held without bail.    

Keep in mind that the charges and allegations by U.S. Attorneys’ Office are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. However, regardless of the outcome of this indictment you can bet that Mr. Burrell will likely have to face the Civil Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

What Should You Do?

The IRS is always interested in teaming up with other Federal agencies in their investigations of non-compliance with the laws and with only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns. Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. 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) and offices elsewhere in California get you set up with a plan that may include being qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.

IRS offshore cannabis bitcoin investigation

IRS Establishes New Criminal Investigation Group Using Big Data Analytics to Crack Down on Offshore, Bitcoin and Cannabis Tax Evasion

Tax Evasion delinquent tax returns IRS tax attorney help with IRS issues

Income Tax Evaders May Still Face Big Fines And Up To Five Years In Jail After Coming Forward

Tax cheats cost the government real money from the lost revenue and the costs associated with enforcement and collection of unpaid tax liabilities. On the Federal and State levels, enforcement of the tax laws is a priority task to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share. Recently, the South Carolina Department Of Revenue (“SCDOR”) charged 30 employees of the Boeing Company with tax evasion over several years going back to 2011. The employees voluntarily turned themselves in to SCDOR investigators but are still faced with the prospect of hefty penalties and a five-year jail sentence for each charge.

The SCDOR Investigation
According to the news release from the SCDOR, the Boeing employees filed W-4 forms claiming exemption from South Carolina’s state income taxes. Apparently, during tax years 2011 to 2014, the workers claimed state tax exemptions although they did not qualify under South Carolina’s individual income tax guidelines. During the years in question, these Boeing workers also failed to file their state tax returns.

It is important to note that the workers received notices from SCDOR encouraging them to comply with the tax laws prior to issuance of arrest warrants. These Boeing employees were given several opportunities to rectify their tax problems but failed to do so. The tax liabilities ranged from $4,000 to about $20,000 based on collective incomes exceeding $4 million. Boeing issued a statement saying that the company was aware of the employees’ tax issues and were proceeding with their own investigation. Aside from their tax troubles, these employees may face disciplinary action from their employer.

Understanding State Income Tax Regulations
The State of South Carolina collects income taxes from residents earning an income in the state. Residents who earn incomes outside South Carolina would pay state taxes to the second state. If that state does not collect income taxes, the taxpayer must pay state taxes to South Carolina as their residential state. Nonresidents who earn income from South Carolina employers must pay taxes to this state. The state does not use a separate withholding exemption certificate from the Federal Form W-4. Exemptions and deductions that are allowed on the federal form are accepted for the state tax returns. In general, employees who received a full refund of taxes withheld in the previous year and who anticipate no tax liabilities in the current year may claim exemption from state taxes.

Enforcement of state taxes varies depending on the prevailing tax code although the state Department of Revenue is charged with enforcement. The process and penalties may vary, so it is important to consult a tax professional when you are faced with any State as well as Federal tax liabilities.

What Constitutes Tax Fraud?
Tax fraud is the deliberate intent to avoid paying taxes through whatever means despite the taxpayer being fully aware that taxes are lawfully due.Tax fraud may trigger penalties under the definitions of Title 26 in the Internal Revenue Code.
Specifically, Title 26 U.S.C. Section 7201 states that tax evasion is a felony that carries a penalty of imprisonment for at most five years or a $250,000 fine for each charge for every individual or a combination of fine and imprisonment along with reimbursement of court costs.

Tax evasion is an example of tax fraud. Tax evasion refers to all deliberate acts where taxpayers misrepresent their taxable income on their tax returns. This would include actions such as inflating expenses for larger deductions, strategically under-reporting taxable income or failing to file tax returns in a mistaken attempt to avoid paying taxes.

The Truth about Dealing with the IRS and State Tax Agencies
There could be any number of reasons why individuals choose to forego filing their tax returns. In the case of the Boeing employees, it is difficult to say what, if anything, made them believe that they could get away with non-filing and non-payment of state taxes for an extended period. It is safe to say that their end-game was not prison, but it appears to be heading in that direction. Looking at the amount of tax liabilities that each individual owed the SCDOR, it would have been much more sensible to comply with state tax laws. The tax dues were miniscule compared to the criminal penalties should they be prosecuted for tax evasion.

The existing tax code is based on the premise that taxpayers are willing and able to honor their tax obligations as upstanding citizens. As such, the IRS and the State revenue offices have programs in place to encourage taxpayers to voluntarily come forward to resolve their non-compliant status instead of waiting for tax agency notices or letters. Voluntary disclosure by taxpayers may count in their favor when the revenue investigator decides if the case merits criminal prosecution. The IRS also allows payment plans and in some cases, reduction of tax liabilities for low-income taxpayers.

Redemption for Non-filers
Tax laws may be rigid, but the IRS and State Tax Agencies do not exist to go after taxpayers who make simple and unintentional mistakes on their tax returns. However, blatant fraud that includes non-compliance with tax filing regulations over several years and ignoring tax agency notices will trigger an investigation and prosecution if for fraud charges. The tax agencies do not need to prove how much you actually owe in taxes to charge you with tax fraud and possibly secure a felony conviction.

If for any reason you failed to file tax returns or you need to amend any of your returns from the last six years, it is best to consult a tax professional to make sure that you are making the right steps. When you work with a tax attorney or a tax expert, you may not have to deal directly with the IRS or State Tax Agency. Your tax representative takes charge of requesting tax transcripts from previous years if you don’t have them anymore. If you owe taxes and are unable to make full payment at the time your returns are filed, your tax representative can negotiate a viable payment plan.

Don’t wait for the IRS or State Tax Agency to contact you if you have not been filing your tax returns or need to amend information submitted in previous returns. For your peace of mind, consult a tax professional who can guide you through the process to ensure a positive outcome and avoid prosecution.