Five Tax Shelter Promoters and Two Appraisers Indicted in Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme

Five Tax Shelter Promoters and Two Appraisers Indicted in Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme

Conspiracy Allegedly Involved Sale of Over $1.3 Billion in Fraudulent Tax Deductions

The U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) announced on March 1, 2022 that a federal grand jury sitting in Atlanta, Georgia, returned a superseding indictment on February 24, 2022 charging seven individuals with conspiracy to defraud the United States and other crimes arising out of their promotion of fraudulent tax shelters involving syndicated conservation easements dating back nearly two decades. One of the defendants, Herbert Lewis, was previously charged in an indictment returned on June 9, 2021.

Alleged Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme

According to the superseding indictment, Jack Fisher, an Atlanta certified public accountant (CPA); James Sinnott; Yekaterina Lopuhina, aka “Kate Joy;” Lewis, an Atlanta-area CPA; Victor Smith, an Atlanta-area CPA; Clayton Weibel, a licensed appraiser; and Walter D. Roberts II, aka “Terry Roberts,” a licensed appraiser, engaged in a conspiracy to design, market and sell false and fraudulent charitable contribution tax deductions to high-income clients.

Fisher and Sinnott allegedly caused partnerships to donate conservation easements over land owned by the partnerships. In conjunction with those donations, Fisher and Sinnott allegedly used two hand-picked appraisers, Weibel and Roberts, to generate fraudulent and inflated appraisals of the conservation easements that frequently valued the easements at amounts at least 10 times higher than the price that was actually paid for the partnership — often within months of the appraisals. According to the superseding indictment, the partnerships then claimed a charitable contribution tax deduction in the inflated amount of the conservation easement, resulting in a fraudulent tax deduction flowing to the clients who purchased units in the partnership.

Fisher, Sinnott, Joy, Lewis, Smith and other co-conspirators allegedly promoted, marketed and sold partnership units for $25,000 and guaranteed at least a 4-to-1 tax deduction ratio to their clients, which meant that four units with a total cost of $100,000 would yield a $400,000 tax deduction. The marketing materials allegedly stated, for example, that depending on their personal tax rate, such a $400,000 deduction could result in the client receiving $170,000 back within months of purchasing their units for $100,000. Fisher, Sinnott and Joy allegedly provided Roberts and Weibel with spreadsheets containing information purportedly used to value the conservation easements necessary to deliver the tax deduction ratio promised to their clients.

Indictment Details

The superseding indictment charges that the syndicated conservation easement transactions were abusive tax shelters lacking in economic substance or a business purpose. Despite Fisher, Sinnott and Joy allegedly attempting to disguise the transactions as real estate deals, the indictment alleges that the transactions were simply the illegal sale of inflated tax deductions.

Additionally, Fisher, Sinnott, Joy, Lewis and Smith allegedly helped clients claim charitable contribution tax deductions after the close of the tax year by accepting late sales, generating backdated documents and preparing, and causing the preparation of, false and fraudulent tax returns and false documents, among other items. In total, the defendants allegedly sold over $1.3 billion in false and fraudulent tax deductions through this scheme.

All defendants are charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, for which they face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

In addition, Fisher, Sinnott, Joy, Roberts and Weibel are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, for which each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted. Lewis and Smith are both charged with wire fraud, for which they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count.

Fisher, Sinnott, Lewis, Smith, Roberts and Weibel are charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of false returns related to the syndicated conservation easement tax shelters, for which they face a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison for each count.

Fisher, Sinnott, Joy and Lewis are also charged with filing false personal tax returns, for which they each face a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison for each count.

Finally, Fisher is charged with money laundering arising from his purchases of multiple luxury vehicles and domestic and foreign properties with the proceeds of unlawful activity. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count.

In addition to the statutory maximum periods of incarceration, each of the defendants also faces a period of supervised release, monetary penalties, restitution and forfeiture. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

** Keep in mind that an indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. **

Actions by DOJ help support IRS’ campaigns to fight fraudulent tax shelters.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division stated: “The Tax Division is continuing to prioritize prosecution of fraudulent tax shelters, which are designed to enable taxpayers to pay far less than their fair share.  Those who contemplate promoting fraudulent tax shelters involving syndicated conservation easements – and the accountants, appraisers and tax preparers who create and execute strategies to assist them – should know that the Tax Division and IRS will unravel even the most elaborate schemes.”

Chief Jim Lee of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) stated: “This superseding indictment demonstrates IRS Criminal Investigation’s commitment to investigate and prosecute illegal tax shelters.  IRS-CI special agents are focused on ending abusive syndicated conservation easements that allow perpetrators of these schemes to enrich themselves while their wealthy clients skirt their tax obligations.”

What Should You Do?

Whether you are a involved in a potentially fraudulent tax shelter or the promoter of one, 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.Top of Form

Justice Department Shuts Down Brooklyn Tax Return Preparation Business

Justice Department Shuts Down Brooklyn Tax Return Preparation Business

Recently, the U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) successfully secured injunctions from U.S Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York barring Keith Sang, Kashana Sang, Tareek Lewis, Kimberly Brown and their business K&L Accounting Inc. from preparing tax returns.

K&L Accounting Inc. of Brooklyn, New York

The Tax Division of the DOJ announced that on February 26, 2022, a federal court in the Eastern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction against four Brooklyn tax return preparers and their business.

The civil complaint filed in the case seeks to permanently bar Keith Sang, Kashana Sang, Tareek Lewis, Kimberly Brown and their business K&L Accounting Inc. from preparing tax returns. The preliminary injunction bars the defendants from any involvement in the preparation of federal tax returns during the pendency of this case. Keith Sang, Kashana Sang, Lewis and the business made no objection to the injunction. Brown opposed it.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ tax return preparation schemes include preparation of individual income tax returns that (1) contain false or exaggerated itemized deductions (for example, unreimbursed employee expenses and charitable donations), (2) false filing statuses, such as improper “head of household” elections, (3) fraudulent and/or fictitious business income and/or expenses, (4) returns that falsify customer’s self-employment income to bring the customer into the “sweet spot” for the maximum available earned income tax credit, and (5) false losses on forms that report supplemental income or loss. The complaint alleges that, each year, K&L is responsible for preparing over 2,000 tax returns for customers, and that Keith Sang, whose electronic tax filing privileges were revoked years ago, has taken numerous steps to disguise his involvement with the tax return preparation, while he continues to prepare returns and supervise others working at K&L.

In granting the preliminary injunction, the court found that defendants engaged in concerted and conscious steps to evade IRS enforcement; that they, acting as a unit, repeatedly filed tax returns understating taxpayer liabilities since at least 2016; and that their past efforts demonstrated that they would continue hampering IRS enforcement unless prohibited from acting as federal tax return preparers during the litigation.

Actions by DOJ help support IRS’ campaigns to fight refund fraud and identity theft. 

“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”.

The Office of the Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation (“CI”) has previously stated that “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. 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.Top of Form

Justice Department Shuts Down Three Tax Return Preparation Businesses

Justice Department Shuts Down Three Tax Return Preparation Businesses

Recently in three separate cases, the U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) successfully secured injunctions from U.S Federal District Courts barring certain tax return preparation businesses from preparing tax returns and in some cases ordering the tax return preparers to disgorge the fees they obtained by preparing false and fraudulent tax returns.

Terance Price – Mississippi

On January 28, 2022, DOJ announced that a federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi has permanently barred Terance Price, a Mississippi tax return preparer, from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others.

The permanent injunction is against Terance Price, both individually and doing business as Superior Taxes. The court entered the injunction after Price failed to respond to the complaint the government served on him.

The complaint alleged that Price, who began operating his tax preparation business in 2015, knowingly took unreasonable positions on returns he prepared that understated the tax his customers owed, overstated the refunds owed to his clients, or both. In particular, the complaint alleged that Price prepared returns that falsely claimed residential energy credits, fuel tax credits and unreimbursed employee business expenses.

The government further alleged in the complaint that Price has filed hundreds of tax returns since 2015, and that he has filed tax returns using other tax preparers’ personal identifying information. According to the complaint, the IRS assessed penalties against Price for failing to make reasonable inquiries to ensure that his customers were legitimately entitled to various tax credits, and Price has not paid those penalties.

Karla Welch – Florida

On February 2, 2022, DOJ announced that it filed a civil injunction suit to bar Karla Welch and her businesses from owning or operating a tax preparation business and preparing tax returns. The complaint also requests that the court require the defendants to disgorge the fees they obtained by preparing false and fraudulent tax returns.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that Welch, through Karla R. Welch LLC and Kwik Services LLC, owns and operates a tax preparation business with as many as 12 stores in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. According to the complaint, Welch and her businesses prepare and file tax returns to falsely increase their customers’ refunds, and profit through high and often undisclosed preparation fees at the expense of their customers and the Treasury. The complaint alleges that the defendants prepared returns for customers that:

  • Falsely claim the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Report fabricated businesses and related business income and expenses
  • Report fabricated deductions, including for purported job-related expenses
  • Claim false education credits.

Wendell Devallon and Berald Dominique – Florida

On February 4, 2022, DOJ announced that a federal court in the Southern District of Florida permanently as of February 3, 2022 barred Wendell Devallon and Berald Dominique, co-owners of Tax Time Group Inc., from preparing federal income tax returns or operating any tax return preparation business in the future. The court also ordered the tax preparers to pay $353,000 in disgorgement to the United States.

The civil complaint filed in the case alleged that Wendell Devallon and Berald Dominique, co-owners of Tax Time Group Inc., prepared tax returns for customers that claimed fraudulent self-employment expenses, fictitious education credits, false fuel tax credits and fake charitable contributions, among other schemes. The complaint also alleged that Devallon and Dominique acted as “ghost” preparers, meaning that they acted as paid tax return preparers but did not sign the returns they prepared, as required by law.

In a June 2021 order, the court found the defendants in contempt for violating a preliminary injunction that restricted their tax preparation activities while this case was pending. Devallon, Dominique and Tax Time Group consented to entry of the court’s contempt order and admitted that sufficient evidence existed to show that they had violated the preliminary injunction. In August 2021, the court entered an order requiring the defendants to pay $211,000 in sanctions for their violations of the preliminary injunction.

The February 3rd permanent injunction, to which Devallon, Dominique and Tax Time Group consented, forever bars them from any involvement in the preparation of federal tax returns. They must immediately close and cease all operations at any Tax Time Group office location, including the company’s North Lauderdale offices located at 995 Rock Island Road and 1675 S State Rd 7. They must also pay an additional $142,000 to the United States for their fraudulent return preparation activities that pre-dated the complaint. The permanent injunction requires Devallon and Dominique to give up their ownership of the “Tax Time Group” brand. If they sell the business, all proceeds will be applied to the $353,000 they must pay the United States. If Devallon, Dominique or Tax Time Group is found to have prepared another return, they must pay the United States $2,000 plus any fees they received for preparing the return.

Actions by DOJ help support IRS’ campaigns to fight refund fraud and identity theft. 

“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”.

The Office of the Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation (“CI”) has previously stated that “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. 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.Top of Form

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its Top Cases Of 2021

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its Top Cases Of 2021

On January 3, 2022 the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) began listing he top 10 cases for calendar year 2021 on its Twitter account which are considered to me the agency’s most prominent and high-profile investigations of 2021.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a nearly 90% federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 11 attaché posts abroad.

In issuing this list IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee stated: “The investigative work of 2021 has all the makings of a made for TV movie – embezzlement of funds from a nonprofit, a family fraud ring that stole millions in COVID-relief funds and a $1 billion Ponzi scheme used to buy sports teams and luxury vehicles. But this is real life and I’m grateful to our IRS-CI agents for pursuing these leads and ensuring that the perpetrators were prosecuted for their crimes.”

Here are the cases of 2021 that made the top 10 of IRS-CI cases in countdown order:

  1. Albuquerque couple sentenced to federal prison in Ayudando Guardians case
    Susan Harris and William Harris were sentenced to 47 and 15 years in federal prison, respectively. They stole funds from Ayudando Guardians Inc., a nonprofit organization that provided guardianship, conservatorship and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs.
  2. Rochester man going to prison and ordered to pay millions in restitution for his role in Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of millions of dollars
    John Piccarreto Jr. was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $19,842,613.66 after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and filing a false tax return. He conspired with others to obtain money through an investment fraud Ponzi scheme.
  3. Orlando sisters sentenced in $25 million tax fraud scheme
    Petra Gomez and her co-conspirator, her sister, Jakeline Lumucso, were sentenced to eight and four years in federal prison, respectively. They operated a tax preparation business with five locations in central Florida that filed more than 16,000 false tax returns for clients from 2012 to 2016 with a total estimated loss to the IRS of $25 million.
  4. Russian bank founder sentenced for evading exit tax upon renouncing U.S. citizenship
    Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, was ordered to pay more than $248 million in taxes and sentenced to time-served and one year of supervised release after he renounced his U.S. citizenship in an effort to conceal large stock gains that were reportable to the IRS after the company he founded became a multibillion dollar, publicly traded company.
  5. Ontario man who ran multimillion-dollar unlicensed bitcoin exchange business sentenced to 3 years in federal prison
    Hugo Sergio Mejia was sentenced to three years in federal prison and required to forfeit all assets derived from running an unlicensed business that exchanged at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, and vice versa, often for drug traffickers. He charged commissions for the transactions and established separate companies to mask his true activity.
  6. Owner of bitcoin exchange sentenced to prison for money laundering
    Rossen G. Iossifov, a Bulgarian national, was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for participating in a scheme where popular online auction and sales websites — such as Craigslist and eBay — falsely advertised high-cost goods (typically vehicles) that did not actually exist. Once victims sent payment for the goods, the conspiracy engaged in a complicated money laundering scheme where U.S.-based associates would accept victim funds, convert these funds to cryptocurrency, and transfer the cryptocurrency to foreign-based money launderers.
  7. Ex-pastor of Orange County church sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for orchestrating $33 million con that defrauded investors
    Kent R.E. Whitney, the ex-pastor of the Church of the Health Self, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $22.66 million in restitution to victims after defrauding investors of $33 million by orchestrating a church-based investment scam. At his direction, church representatives appeared on television and at live seminars to make false and misleading claims to lure investors to invest in church entities. Victims sent more than $33 million to the church and received fabricated monthly statements reassuring them that their funds had been invested, when in reality, little to no money ever was.
  8. Prairie Village Man Sentenced to 12 Years for $7.3 Million Dollar Payday Loan Fraud, $8 Million Tax Evasion
    Joel Tucker was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison and ordered to pay over $8 million in restitution to the IRS after selling false information or fictitious debts to payday loan businesses and not filing federal tax returns – for himself or his businesses – with the IRS for multiple years.
  9. DC Solar owner sentenced to 30 years in prison for billion dollar Ponzi scheme
    Jeff Carpoff, the owner of California-based DC Solar, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and forfeited $120 million in assets to the U.S. government for victim restitution after creating a Ponzi-scheme that involved the sale of thousands of manufactured mobile solar generator units (MSGs) that didn’t exist. He committed account and lease revenue fraud and purchased a sports team, luxury vehicles, real estate and a NASCAR team with the proceeds.
  10. San Fernando Valley family members sentenced to years in prison for fraudulently obtaining tens of millions of dollars in COVID relief
    The Ayvazyan family received sentences ranging from 17.5 years in prison to 10 months of probation for crimes ranging from bank and wire fraud to aggravated identity theft. The family used stolen and fictitious identities to submit 150 fraudulent applications for COVID-relief funds based on phony payroll records and tax documents to the Small Business Administration, and then used the funds they received to purchase luxury homes, gold coins, jewelry designer handbags and more. Richard Ayvazyan and his wife Terabelian cut their ankle monitoring devices and absconded prior to their sentencing hearing; they are currently fugitives.

IRS-CI reported that the agency initiated over 2,500 cases in fiscal year 2021 (up from 1,598 in the previous fiscal year), applying approximately 72% of its time to tax related investigations.

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

An IRS Special Agent works for IRS-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 IRS-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 IRS-CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, 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), Los Angeles and other locations within California 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.

Can You Go To Jail For Not Filing Tax Returns? Beware this can happen to you.

Can You Go To Jail For Not Filing Tax Returns? Beware this can happen to you.

A man who did not file tax returns for 8 year in a row pleaded guilty before a Federal District Court Judge to evading his income taxes and now must serve 57 months in jail.

As reported by the Department Of Justice in a press release, from 2009 through 2016 Daryl Brown received taxable income, but did not file tax returns reporting his income or pay the taxes he owed.  To evade his taxes, Mr. Brown opened bank accounts and lines of credit in nominee names and used credit and debit cards from those accounts to pay for personal expenses.  He also bought money orders with cash, directed others to buy money orders for him, and structured his purchase of money orders–sometimes from several locations on the same day–to avoid triggering reporting requirements that would have flagged his activity to the IRS.  Court documents showed Mr. Brown’s conduct caused a tax loss of more than $250,000 to the IRS.

The Department Of Justice in a follow-up press release reported that on June 7, 2021 U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black in the Southern District of Ohio sentenced Mr. Brown to 57 months in prison for tax evasion and ordered him to serve 3 years of supervised release and pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $377,240.

An Opportunity To “Get Back Into The System” And Be Compliant.

The U.S. tax system relies on initial voluntary compliance where taxpayers each year file a tax return; however, there are millions of Americans who fail to file a tax return and what’s worse is that these failures are usually not limited to just one year. Taxpayers who either have never filed a tax return or those who were once compliant but stopped filing a tax return for a period of time, face the same penalties that stack up quickly.  Additionally, if the IRS chooses to pursue criminal prosecution and proves that the failure was willful, a taxpayer can be sentenced to prison.  So it is important to engage a tax attorney to come up with a plan to mitigate criminal exposure and establish an arrangement or settlement on the resulting tax liabilities.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS.

As a prerequisite to any proposal (including but not limited to, an Offer In Compromise, payment plan or being put into “uncollectible status”) to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.

Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now towards the end of 2021, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2021 should have their 2021 income tax returns as soon as possible in 2022 so that the 2021 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2022.

Remember that COVID-19 does not alter the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do.

Also, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period and a taxpayer is not agreeing to extend such, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statute.

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), Los Angeles (including 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. You can also check out the KahnTaxLaw Coronavirus Resource Center.  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.

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.

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.